Dillin meal prices leave students swindled, disappointed

Grant Beltrami, Staff writer

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I know everyone hates on Dillin food because they get tired of eating it and selection is not always the greatest. This article is not about that.
This week all continuing students will be required to fill out their housing forms for next year. At some point in that process, they will be prompted to pick a meal plan.

Students living in apartments or suburb housing will be able to opt-out of a meal plan, but those living in residence halls will not be so lucky. There are three options available and all of them are a complete and total rip-off.

You would think that a random person off the street, let’s call him Bob, who walked into Dillin three times each weekday and twice on weekends would pay substantially more over the course of a semester than a Linfield student.

You would think that purchasing approximately 285 meals at once, as a member of the community in which the meals are being served, would be cheaper than buying them one at a time.

Well, for some unknown reason, you would be wrong.

The price for next academic year’s “Unlimited” meal plan is $2795 per semester. The fall semester spans from Aug. 27 to Dec. 14, which is 110 days. Dillin will be closed for at least five of those days for Thanksgiving break, which leaves 105 days, or 15 full weeks of food service.

That comes out to $186.33 per week, $26.62 per day, and $9.80 per meal. If you remove the 125 “flex dollars” from the equation, it comes out to $178, $25.43, and $9.37 .

Let us forget about flex dollars for a bit, as they are almost like real dollars except you can only use them in two places on Earth instead of literally everywhere. Most students on the unlimited plan will use the majority of their flex dollars over the course of the semester anyways and our buddy Bob, do you remember Bob? He doesn’t have any flex dollars.

What Bob does have though, is $112.50 leftover at the end of the semester. Yep, our friend Bob who walked into Dillin off the street three times on weekdays and twice on weekends, and bought his meals with cash or credit, paid $112.50 less than every student on the “Unlimited” meal plan. Lucky Bob.

All these calculations are done assuming that students are utilizing their meal plan to the fullest, when in fact many students will skip meals often for whatever reason. Skipping meals of course lowers the value of the meal plan even further and increases the price paid per meal.

Speaking of maximum utilization, it would be nice if students were able to carry-out food without being harassed by Dillin staff. I’m sure the staff hates stopping students just as much as students hate being stopped. Nobody is stockpiling food in their dorm and students have too much going on to plan their lives around the limited hours that meals are served. For some reason the only thing we seem to be allowed to take with us is bananas…fruit for thought.

Well that unlimited meal plan is kind of a raw deal, so let us take a quick look at the weekly and block plans. The prices for those plans are not available on the Linfield website at the moment, but last year they were $70 and $190 lower than the unlimited plan, respectively.

For argument’s sake, and in case by some miracle the prices for these plans did not increase since last year like the unlimited plan did, we can use last year’s prices of $2,615 and $2,495.

After removing flex dollars from those prices, students on the weekly plan are paying $12.69 per meal swipe, and students on the block plan are paying a whopping $18.95 for each of their allotted swipes, and that is if they use all of them before they expire at the end of each semester. Oof, that is rough.

The oddest thing I have discovered is that reasonable plans are available on the linfield.sodexomyway.com website. At the bottom of the dining plans page, under the headline “non-compulsory meal plans,” there are two community meal plans for students, faculty and staff members.

Plan A contains 10 meals and 25 flex for $110, which is $8.50 per swipe. Plan B contains 30 meals and 50 flex which comes in at just $7 per swipe. These prices are reasonable and comparable to eating at an off campus establishment. To add insult to injury, these meal swipes are allowed to roll over to other semesters and maybe even other school years.

So why are students living in dorms required to pay more for their food then faculty, staff or students in suburbs and apartments? Students should be able to purchase meal plans at a reasonable price that better fit their individual needs.

I do not pretend to know anything about how these prices were set or who had a say in setting them, but if Sodexo can’t operate a dining hall without price gouging captive customers maybe Linfield should find a different contractor.

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Dillin meal prices leave students swindled, disappointed