Meal plan follow-up: Are students biting into the offer?

Cory Van Gilst- Staff Writer

Nearly an entire semester has passed since the beginning of the new meal plan that provides juniors with five meals swipes a week. The plan, causing swift pushback from the class of 2018 during last year’s spring semester, has since won more support.

A few weeks into the Fall 2016 semester, juniors remained skeptical on how beneficial the meal plan would prove to be. However, over the course of the semester, these students have begun to shift their opinions on the mandatory meal plan.

In writing a previous article on this issue, one point of conflict arose from juniors voicing concerns that they were struggling to balance all two hundred of the defender dollars, purchase groceries and use all five meal swipes on a weekly basis.

“I have found myself trying hard to use up meals, [as well as] also buying things from the Bunsen Brew and 55th that I really don’t need,” said junior Hannah Klos. As the weeks rolled on, different juniors and seniors, who had purchased the plan willingly, discovered ways to remedy these plights.

“I just use the meal box to go and grab as much meat as I can when I need it,” said junior John Brouwer. Many have begun to develop a system of using their meal swipes at the Grille for lunch between classes so they do not have to return to their apartments in the middle of the day.

“Students are working to make the best out of the situation given to them; everyone has a system,” said junior Josh Heynen. Currently, 51.1% of the meals are being used at the Grille while 48.9% are being used at the Commons.

Robert Taylor IV, Dean of Students, reiterated the purpose of the meal plan as well as explaining how he and the rest of the Dordt staff see it unfolding.

“The purpose of this meal plan was to develop community that is campus-wide,” said Taylor. “It was never about the money.” Taylor acknowledged that there are improvements that can be made with the meal plan, but believes that it has been a major success.

“A lot of the community that is developed here comes from the upperclassmen and flows down to the underclassmen; we wanted to implement that into the dining halls,” he said. Dordt received a large amount of unsolicited thanks from parents for the meal plan, citing peace of mind in knowing that their child is getting at least five quality meals a week.

While there are still juniors who are not pleased with the meal plan, many are starting to appreciate, or at least, utilize the plan fully. Dordt is doing the same thing, giving students options that would not be possible without the new plan. To help remedy the amount of excess Defender Dollars created by having five meals a week, Dordt is now allowing clubs to host events and have students pay using their Defender Dollars. Two examples of this are the Students Without Borders club’s Curry Craze, as well as the Rugby club’s Brazilian Barbeque.

This semester also saw the inception of book discussion at the Commons over a meal. Students could use a meal swipe for food, listen to an audio book as a group while eating, and discuss it on a weekly basis.

As it moves forward with this meal plan structure, Dordt is looking for additional ways to meet the needs of students.

“The goal has always been and will continue to be to serve the students and their needs,” said Taylor. Dordt Dining does its best to take into account the requests of students who take the surveys at the Grille and Commons. Taylor expressed a deep concern for what was best for the students of Dordt College as well as a willingness to adjust the structure of the meal plan and dining situation at Dordt.

Next year, the meal plan will be given to seniors in addition to the juniors.

“We’re excited about what this will do for the campus as a whole; professors are even beginning to eat in the Commons,” says Taylor. The new meal plan is bold.”

However, upperclassmen still hope to see more flexibility given to them with their meal swipes.

“If I could use two of my meal swipes in one time block, it would be really useful,” said junior Henry Meurs. Additional suggestions include allowing upperclassmen the ability to purchase hot food at the Grille at any time, placing chicken tenders and soup on meal exchange, and expanding both dining areas’ hours.

With nearly a full semester in the books for the meal plan, Dordt is confident that it will be a success for the future of the college. Students have begun to make the most of it, regardless of their opinions, and will have to continue to do so. To reassure students that Dordt is placing their students first, Taylor explains some of the goals of the meal plan.

“We see the value in cooking together in the apartments as well as eating in the dining hall; that’s why we only implemented five meals a week. We want our students to thrive in all environments.”

The upperclassmen meal plan is here to stay, but students’ attitudes towards the new meal plan appear to be shifting positively to what this can do for them.

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