Student meal plan decreased $200 on average

Blugold Dining and Sodexo compensate with mild changes


Photo by Amanda Thao

Erbert and Gerbert’s Bistro in the Marketplace of the Davies Center now opens at 10 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m., while The Cabin opens an hour later due to low morning demand, Christian Wise, resident district manager and executive chef for Sodexo Campus Services said.

Blugold Dining renewed its contract with Sodexo, the food and facilities management service on campus, on June 1 and requested a more economical approach to offer decreased rates for student meal plans, said Charles Farrell, Director of University Centers.

“From a competitive standpoint our rates were a little higher than other campuses,” Farrell said. “Our program was a lot more robust than other campuses but I think people tend to just look at the price tag. They don’t necessarily look at what they are getting for it.”

The around $12 million dining operation is largely funded using student meal plan fees the university receives and then distributes to Sodexo, with the exception of certain catering gigs and retail operations on campus where customers directly purchase food without a meal plan, such as Einstein Bros. Bagels, The Dulany Inn or The Cabin.

While economic responsibility determines part of the contract between Sodexo and Blugold Dining, , Farrell said, most of the changes in the food service operation are a response to student feedback. Since Farrell started working with Blugold Dining in 2006, he said he has spent over 300 hours listening to students share their thoughts on dining in order to be as responsive as possible.

“A lot of that comes from feedback from the dining committee and that’s why the dining committee is so important,” Farrell said. “Their feedback to us about what’s important and what isn’t is usually pretty accurate, which is helpful and it’s a good reason for students to get involved.”

Considering the large size of the operation, Farrell said. the dining plan changes made to compensate for the decrease in student meal plan costs won’t be too noticeable to the average student.

Christian Wise, resident district manager and executive chef for Sodexo Campus Services pointed out some of the more noticeable changes in campus dining this year.

Three of the four meal plans students can purchase — upper, platinum and lower — have decreased in price, now ranging from $187-245. Meanwhile, the declining meal plan has stayed the same, with purchasing powers at $1,080, while the plan costs $1,400 to accommodate for the $320 administrative fee the university wraps into all plans.

Students also may notice the healthier options and hour changes around campus, a result of lower meal plan rates.

“What we tried to do is economize in places that would affect the least number of people and so we looked at how dinner [in the Riverview Cafe] was being offered,”Wise said.

They found most students were done eating dinner at 8 p.m. despite the mainline on the east side staying open until 9 p.m., Wise said. Now the cafeteria closes the main line at 8 p.m. as well as the rest of the east side, which used to stay open until close.

Wise said Sodexo and Blugold Dining are also trying to offer healthier meals in the mainline, including more vegetables and carved and baked meats, as well as less gravies, casseroles and breaded items.

Other changes caf goers might notice is the cafeteria’s new uniform closing time of 11 p.m. during the week, leaving it open an hour later on weekends while closing an hour earlier on weeknights.

Sophomore Alex Percival said he doesn’t mind the earlier closing time during the week, as he was on his way to eat dinner around 5 p.m.

“My main disappointment is the fact that the main side isn’t open after 8 p.m. anymore,” Percival said.

Maddie Luthanen, a sophomore elementary and special education student, agrees. After she gets out of her nearly three hour class at 8 p.m. she said she wants a real homestyle dinner only the mainline can provide, but instead has to pick from the west side’s stations of pasta, Tex-Mex, pizza and sandwiches.

“Those options are fine sometimes,” Luthanen said. “I like to eat over there but I don’t want a quesadilla every night.”