Sodexo, Inc., the company that provides campus dining, has proposed a few additions to their services. Potential updates to campus dining include an off-campus meal plan, a healthier menu in the showcase area of Marletto’s Marketplace and extended dining hours in the University Center.
Student presenters mentioned these changes during a presentation at the spring 2012 Delegates’ Agenda on Feb. 23.
Dining Service Manager Brad Woodroffe said Sodexo is working on improving the nutritional quality of the food served. He said Marletto’s will offer a balanced meal for lunch and dinner in the showcase station. The focus of the meals will be on low calories and low fat.
Dining hours in the University Center have been extended one hour this semester to 11 p.m. This is the only change in hours campus dining has seen. Woodroffe said Sodexo will reevaluate the extended hours at the end of the semester.
Sodexo also proposed an off-campus meal plan. The plan was presented to the Dining Advisory Board and Student Affairs staff. Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Ted Hoef said he is currently compiling data, testimonials and feedback from those who heard the proposal.
“I will share (the findings) with (Vice-President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs) Paul Carney and (Chief Financial Officer) Greg Gunderson,” Hoef said. “The Finance office will also share their feedback with Greg Gunderson. Then Paul Carney and Greg Gunderson will send their recommendation on to the provost for a decision about the Off Campus Solutions proposal.”
Hoef said the university tries to expand their options because it wants students to have a convenient dining program. However, some students say the current meal plan still comes at an inconvenient price. While the plan is mandatory for students living in dorm halls, commuter students and those who live in campus apartments have a meal plan option.
Jonathon Musgrave, junior film production major and campus resident, has bonus bucks. These are used as pre-paid dollars for campus dining. His main reason for not purchasing a full plan, he said, was because of the high cost.
Woodroffe said the university and Sodexo work together to try and keep costs affordable for students.
“There are a lot of factors that go into the price we charge the university,” Woodroffe said. “The cost of food and producing food is going up a lot. You can see it in the grocery store.”
Woodroffe has been the general manager of Sodexo at Webster University since 2005. He also worked at Webster in 1998 and 1999 as general manager, and said the costs of meal plans have definitely increased throughout the years.
When a student purchases a meal plan, their money goes to the university. Sodexo will then charge or bill the university for a certain amount. Woodroffe said Sodexo uses this money to pay for food, employee wages, taxes, insurances, benefits and licenses, among other things. The money that remains with the university goes towards maintaining and upgrading facilities for Sodexo.
When students presented at the fall 2011 Delegates’ Agenda, they proposed for campus dining to have more nutritious options, more locally-grown food, an off-campus meal plan and extended, more flexible hours.
While the full price for an all-you-can-eat meal at Marletto’s is $7.25 plus tax for someone paying with cash or credit, when meal plan “C” is divided by price and number of meals, it averages to be around $11 a meal.
Woodroffe said students who pay the extra dollars per meal keep the dining facilities running and allow flexibility with hours of operation.
“That is why we have seen area colleges and universities go towards making it a requirement that every undergrad have some type of meal plan,” Woodroffe said. “All of these other students are benefiting for facilities and services, but aren’t really paying for them.”
The university does not require every undergraduate to live in a dorm their freshman year.
Certain students living on campus are required to have a meal plan. Woodroffe said a reason for the mandatory plan is to make the prices more affordable.
“If you made it optional for people to have a meal plan, instead of having 500 on the meal plan, you might have 200,” Woodroffe said. “If you have less kids, the rate is going to have to go up. And so, therefore, those 200 kids who have chosen that meal plan will have to pay a lot more.”
Hoef said the university needs a campus meal plan option for those students who want it.
“We need to be able to offer a level of food service that can be used with a practical price for students,” Hoef said.
Woodroffe has found that students who purchase the 100 meals per semester tend to run out of meals, while those who purchase the 175 meals have many leftover, wasted meals.
Musgrave said he suggests that a plan in the middle would better suit the students.
Woodroffe said if students would bring a proposal like this to him, Sodexo could prepare a price and present it to the university. Woodroffe said the university would then present to students how much the new meal plan would cost.
“It’s a matter of students telling us what they want,” Woodroffe said.
He said the weekly meal plans “A” and “B” were changed a few years ago based on what students said they wanted. The meal plans were originally 10 meals a week plus points and 23 meals a week plus points, respectively. Now the weekly meal plans are 7 meals a week with points and 19 meals a week with points.
Woodroffe said the university tries hard to be competitive with other St. Louis colleges. They do this by finding a balanced price that is competitive, fair and meets everyone’s needs.
“There is a line when you are making too much money,” Woodroffe said. “If you are making too much, you aren’t providing the services and food you should be providing.”
Hoef said through a campus meal plan, the university hopes students, faculty and staff can build a community and have flexible options and hours at an affordable price.
“We want students to be able to have a dining program that is as convenient as we can make it, so that they can concentrate on their primary goal —to be a student,” Hoef said.