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Are students getting more or less out of the new meal plans?

Addison Dent

The phrase “put your money where your mouth is” has become a reality at campus dining locations.
This year, Ole Miss Dining Services introduced the new Plus 1 addition to the meal plans. Plus 1 is designed to allow students to use one meal, valued at $7, a day at any dining location on campus.
“The All Access meal plan gives you unlimited access in the Johnson Commons East and two meals per eating period at Magnolia Kitchen,” said Jonathan Parker, resident district manager of food services. “We piloted the program at the end of the spring semester last year to orientation leaders, and it was very well-received,” he said.
However, is it as well-received by the students and the staff?
“Right now, everyone is still getting used to it,” said Micah Manscoe, senior accounting clerk at the ID Center. “At the beginning of the semester I would say it had more of a negative effect because it was a change with the cashiers, too. They needed to learn the process of the registers, and the students needed to learn exactly how to use it.”
Chick-Fil-A cashier Latreca Pegues said she does not have a problem with the new plan, but she said the food is very expensive in the Union.
“I have had problems with students that come to the window and they are getting charged for cheese, tomatoes and lettuce cups, and they gripe about it,” Pegues said. “If it was left up to me, hey, they pay enough for the sandwich, that’s enough,” she said.
Other cashiers, like Sheena Anderson, who is also a cook at Burger Studios, said part of the problem is the confusion of the Plus 1.
“I just have to explain to them that it’s a meal you can use one time only,” she said.
Anderson, who also explained that the Plus 1 doesn’t roll over, feels the total prices of the meal plans are too expensive.
“You’re losing money; I don’t think that’s right,” she said.
Every meal plan has increased its total value in price from a year ago. Last year the All Access plan was $1,300, and now it is $1,350 per semester. For some, this jump isn’t steep, but how is the money distributed?
“Meal plan prices have gone up,” Manscoe said. “The students, I would recommend that they use their meal plan every day, if they get one, to get the full value of the meal plan. The price per meal has pretty much remained the same, but the price per plan has gone up.”
Manscoe said the additional $50 grants more meals because of the two meals per eating period, but the Plus 1 does not roll over.
“To get your full value of the meal, you would need to use it every day,” Manscoe said.
Manscoe said Plus 1 averages out to 107 meals for plans such as the Rebel 25 Plus 1 and the Rebel 50 Plus 1. If a student were to use only half of his or her Plus 1 meals a semester, he or she would lose up to $375.
The Rebel 100 Plus 1, which was originally the 200 meal plan last year, is $1,349, one dollar less than the All Access plan. Last year’s price was $1,250.
Parker said the main difference between the All Access plan and the Rebel 100 Plus 1 is that with the All Access plan, students have unlimited meals in the Johnson Commons East. Both plans have the Plus 1 option.
“It really boils down to dining habits, preferences and where students will eat the majority of their meals,” he said.
And based on students’ preferences, the Student Union is the most popular dining location on campus. Parker also said Rebel 100 Plus 1 is similar to the number of meals of last year’s 200 meal plan. For students who select the Rebel 100 Plus 1 but prefer to eat in the Union over the JC, the $99 increase is for a Plus 1 meal that does not roll over.
Senior psychology major Jimmel Cartwright said she does not have a meal plan this year because she does not like the options for upperclassmen.
“Not only are they limited, they do not give you the same benefits all around campus without actually losing something, to give something up,” Cartwright said. Last year I had the Rebel 50 at the JC, but you could only use it at the JC, and the JC does not always have the best meals.”
Cartwright also said she doesn’t like that the new Plus 1 expires every day.
However, Parker said upperclassman meal sales have been on the rise.
“Over the past four or five years, we have seen an increase in voluntary participation in upperclassmen,” he said.
Chandler Voger, a freshman mechanical engineering major, is among the students who enjoy the benefits of the Plus 1 plan.
“It’s the only meal plan I know, but I do like it; you’re guaranteed to get one meal a day,” Voger said. “I think it’s fine that it covers majority of the cost, but what I don’t like is when a meal is $4 or $5 and it’s $2 left over,” he said.
Students who purchase these meal plans just want to know that they are receiving the best value for their money.
“You have to wonder how much money are you actually saving when you buy one of these meal plans,” said Derrick Martin, a junior biology major.
Martin said he has the Rebel 50 meal plan.
“A lot of students don’t use all the meals that they really have, and they end up having a whole bunch of meals left over that they can’t even use, he said. “$1,300 for a meal plan, that’s a lot of money for food.”