Food for Thought: Why Marist Should Let Sophomores Go Off All Dining Plans

Sundays are for meal-prepping.

Every week, I gather vegan recipes – from the elaborate and exotic to simple but traditional – and formulate my grocery list accordingly.  

Yet, with each trip to Stop & Shop, I omit certain items on my list. Rather than buying a package of raspberries for $3.99, I purchase them less frugally at The Cabaret for $4.85.

As a sophomore in apartment housing, I am required to enroll in at least the minimum dining plan: 15 meal swipes in addition to $200 of Thrifty Cash that can be used at retail dining options on campus, like The Cabaret. And because I pay $385 each semester for this plan, I find myself scrambling for ways to use the money – even if that means buying more expensive raspberries.

Not all students are required to have a dining plan, however. Along with commuters, juniors and seniors have the ability to go off all plans entirely.

Many students do choose to purchase a dining plan – they work well for those who may not enjoy or have time to cook and are able to find options at the different retail locations. However, for students like myself, who not only have a passion for cooking but also adhere to more restrictive diets due to lifestyle choices or allergies, the dining plan becomes burdensome rather than beneficial.

For example, vegan or gluten-free students – who cannot enjoy Rossi’s or cheesy calzones – are left with salads and smoothies as their dinner options at North End Dining. While these items are perfectly palatable, they often have less appeal than meals that could be made at home. As a result, students use their Thrifty Cash on items that leave them feeling uninspired, rather than excited about their purchases.

A similar issue exists for swipes in the dining hall. Some students simply prefer their own cooking to what is available, and/or they have more choices in their apartment kitchen. Gluten-free students, for example, are limited to the allergy-free station in the dining hall, while vegans are often resigned to the salad bar when the vegetarian section is unaccommodating.

Because each swipe is worth $12.33, students want to ensure that the quality and quantity of their meal reflects the price. This is difficult to achieve, however, for students who might be limited to salad, rice, potatoes, and chicken or a veggie burger in a trip to the dining hall. It becomes especially frustrating when they consider that what is on their plates could have been made for a much cheaper price at home.

And if students do not use all of their Thrifty Cash or swipes for the reasons mentioned above, their money completely goes to waste.

Marist College should grant sophomores the same dining liberty that juniors and seniors enjoy. There is no harm in at least giving students the option to go without a dining plan. After all, they can always add a meal plan or Thrifty Cash at any point in the semester, if they feel that their choice is not feasible.

Without additional swipes and Thrifty Cash that must be incorporated into a week, sophomores who elect to go off the dining plan will be able to plan and enjoy meals entirely on their own terms – and even save some money on a carton of raspberries.

Isabelle ChristieComment