Survivor story of the UVM meal plans

I’ve been living off-campus this yea as a junior, which has been both a blessing and a curse.

I have to walk further to classes, but I don’t have to listen to my neighbors having sex all the time. I have to pay for my groceries and cook a lot, but at least I don’t have to eat Sodexo food. And at least I don’t have to deal with a rip-off of a meal plan.

I ran into this issue last year around winter break, and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. The meal plans, especially the points plan at UVM, are a rip off.

[media-credit name=”Sydney Liss-Abraham” align=”alignnone” width=”300″]dining-halls_edit[/media-credit]

Last fall, my friends really wanted to switch to points because the food at points places is better than the Grundle every night. Frankly I agree with that, but as far as I can see, my only choice was eat the mediocre food or be hungry every day.

I know plenty of people who have points plans and get along fine, but as far as I could see I would be starving and I was not interested in that. Let’s briefly look at the numbers to see why.

The points dining plan at UVM costs $1,972 per semester. It includes 1,400 dining points plus 25 meal swipes.

The basic unlimited dining plan also costs $1,972 per semester, but includes unlimited dining access along with 100 or 325 points. It also includes guest meals, but I’ll come back to that later. It seems strange to me that both plans are equivalent.

But let’s break down the points plan by day. There are 15 weeks in a semester, so that means about 93 points per week plus one or two meals. That means about 13 points per day. Think about that. $13 per day to feed yourself buying over-priced, prepared foods from Sodexo. That’s not a lot.

For perspective, last year I lived in Converse Hall. Since Cook Commons was closed for dinner, we were allowed a meal equivalent swipe at the Marketplace in the Davis Center. We were given a $14 equivalent which was more for one meal than the points plan allows for each day. You may begin to see why I figured I’d be starving. How were people expected to spread $13 over three meals if I sometimes barely found it adequate for one?

Also, the year before, I briefly lived on Trinity campus, where we got $6 for breakfast, $8 for lunch and $10 for dinner at Northside cafe through meal equivalent swipes. $24 versus $13? And what if I ever had a guest? For the unlimited plan, there are guest swipes allowed, but there is nothing like that on points. I would have to feed them from my own meager supply of $13 a day and lose food. God forbid they stay for a few days, and I’d have to feed them repeatedly.

And God forbid I would ever get terrible food. We all know the food here can be questionable sometimes. If I bought something for lunch that was un-stomachable, could I spare the points to buy something else? When you’re in a dining hall and that happens, you can always just get another plate.

I remember hearing a rationale about that breakdown. The theory was that students were expected to buy staple foods, such as bread, pasta and peanut butter, from places like the Marché and make meals in their dorms.

But the whole reason that the school requires those living in dorms to have meal plans is because “our residential facilities are not equipped to provide individual meal preparation,” according to the UVM Dining website. It seems like the college is directly contradicting itself.

I knew a lot of people who were on points plans last year, and they obviously survived, but they ended up buying a lot of food from grocery stores. They didn’t seem to mind, but it bothered me a lot. They were already paying close to $2,000 to the school to provide meals for them; they should not have been paying additionally out of their pockets for food.

The people like me on unlimited were getting mediocre food for sure, but at least we were full and satisfied after every meal, and we were paying the exact same amount. How do those things add up?

Looking at the whole thing today, I’m glad I can make my own food choices now, but I still think the University should really look more at its meal plans and the contradictions they are portraying. And I have to ask all the points plan people out there… Aren’t you hungry?