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Students consider pros-cons of meal plans

By Nick Bailey
On April 17, 2012


With the Spring 2012 semester quickly coming to a close, many students have started planning for the fall, from classes to housing, and even meal plans. With the meal plan choices available on MyLeo, some students are considering opting out of these options entirely, believing that it would be cheaper to purchase their own food.

Currently, if a student eats in the cafeteria twice a day Monday through Friday - 10 meals per week - then each meal costs about $6.75 as opposed to the $7.88 price for students who do not have a meal plan, making for a $1.13 difference. Students who take advantage of the unlimited meal plan are paying approximately $4.88 per meal, if they eat in the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week.

Sophomore and member of Student Government Association Maha Rizvi has mixed feelings about the meal plan options offered by Texas A&M University-Commerce. While she explains that it was helpful for a time, she does not plan to purchase a meal plan in the fall.

"With my schedule, I don't have time to go home and eat, so I can always go to the [cafeteria], but I don't go there every day," Rizvi said. "But sometimes the food isn't that great, so I'm still hungry even after I eat so I have to go somewhere for my food. Because I don't go to the [cafeteria] that often as I used to, and I feel like I should start cooking for myself."

According to Sodexo's section on the A&M-Commerce website, "The Department of Residence Life meal plan requirement stipulates that all single, beginning undergraduate students who are living on campus are required to purchase an unlimited University meal plan. This policy covers all beginning students who are starting college in the same year as their date of graduation from high school. All other residents in University Housing have the option to purchase any meal plan. The Commuter meal plan is only for non-resident commuter students."

In the fall semester, the cheapest meal plan option - 10 Meals per week with $125 Flex cash - costs $1,205. Students like freshman Gloria Jimenez are concerned that their money would be better spent on food as they need it.

"I can see why some students would get a meal plan so if I had a kitchen I'd rather cook than eat food from the caf," Jimenez said. "But I like to cook, so I would rather go buy a few groceries at Wal-Mart and cook for myself or go to McDonalds or something."

For students living in residence halls like Whitley and Berry halls that offer community kitchens, a meal plan may be more beneficial. Korean international students such as Ellie Lee, the cafeteria in the Rayburn Student Center offers food that they cannot cook in their residence halls.

"I'd rather go to [the cafeteria] unless I have a full kitchen," Lee said. "We enjoy eating in the caf, but sometimes we miss Korean food. That's why many [Korean students] bring their instant Korean food. I think the kind of food that is served from the caf is too limited."

Students like freshman Ronald Leonard look at the situation and consider saving the money that would go towards a meal plan and purchasing their own food at restaurants in Commerce.

"I'd rather save the money I'm using on a meal plan and buy food in town," Leonard said. "At the price I paid for [a meal plan] I could easily eat at McDonald's or go buy groceries and cook a full meal at a friend's house. I mean seriously, the food in the cafeteria is alright, but I don't want to always eat the same thing. I haven't done the math, but I have friends who can buy a full month's worth of groceries with just $85. They have kitchens in their dorms, but I bet I could do fine with that."

Many restaurants in the Commerce area do offer a variety of meals and items for less than Sodexo's dining prices, including McDonalds, Taco Bell, Braum's, and Subway, and students have taken notice. For Leonard, these are all viable options for his daily dining choices in comparison to the Student Center's dining services.

"Personally I don't like everything [Sodexo] makes," Leonard explained. "I can eat some of their food and tell that they served it the day before or earlier that day. That's why I usually go to the burger line because it's hard to mess up a burger. They don't know how to cook certain foods correctly. If they didn't have burgers everyday a lot of people wouldn't have the meal plan, and would instead go hit up a dollar menu and get food that they actually like for cheaper."

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