The Lack of Choice In Student Meal Plans         

As freshman college students at Eastern Oregon University roll into their first year, they unfortunately come across housing and dining issues. They have to figure out where they are going to live, how they are going to eat, and how they will support themselves independently. EOU offers housing and meal plans, requiring first-year students to acquire a meal plan . This is an issue because it is expensive for a single meal plan that only covers a year. This is why we should help students by finding better options to lower the cost of meals. These meal plans also serve food that is not inclusive to all students, such as foreign students that aren’t familiar with the foods that are being served. There are also students that have special diets like gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and so much more. EOU should work with Sodexo to expand the choices that are available to all students on campus. They can do this by making and having more food choices on the menus that are inclusive to every student. All of these choices have negatively impacted the freshman students that live on campus. This is why we should strive to find solutions that benefit the students of Eastern Oregon University.

When applying for a meal plan, you can go to the Eastern Oregon dining plan website and choose from three different plans. Each of them are quite expensive, which most students cannot afford. These plans start off with giving you a certain amount of meal swipes and flex dollars to use throughout the year. Flex dollars are money that gets put into your meal account that you can use at the cafeteria.  The first option that they offer is called the “Ultimate Meal Plan.” This plan gives you two different choices: 170 meals with 175 flex dollars per term or 145 meals with 300 flex dollars per term. These two plans would cost a total of $5,060 per year. The second option is called the “Best Value Meal Plan.” It offers 130 meals with 150 flex dollars per term or 100 meals with 255 flex dollars per term. These options cost a total of $4,560 per year. The third meal plan option is called the “Mini Plan.” This plan gives you 805 meals with 155 flex dollars per term. This meal plan is the cheapest option out of the three, with a total of $4,060 dollars per year. Even if it is the cheapest, it’s still very expensive. Many students cannot afford the cost of any of the meal plans, yet freshman students are still required to have a meal plan. This situation creates a  financial burden for multiple students on campus. This is an issue because students have other expenses to pay like classes, school fees, and more. Therefore, we should find better options for students at Eastern Oregon University.

Photo By Hartleen Kloulubak

We can start by lowering the cost of meal plans. We can also create better offers with the amount of meals to make it more affordable for all students at EOU. To do this, we could have food donation companies and organizations help Eastern Oregon University. At the moment, we are connected with Sodexo, a food company that helps different universities by providing meals to students. There are other companies like Feeding America, Action Against Hunger, and many more, and students can come together and make a proposal to get donations for meals. This would also help lower the cost of meal plans. As we receive more donations, the quality and affordability of our food will increase. Therefore, students at Eastern Oregon University could benefit from different food companies to help the cost of meal plans.

  We could also give freshman students the opportunity to choose whether they want a meal plan or not, which would allow them to decide if they can afford it or not. Requiring students to buy a meal plan is not necessary. There are students that can provide their own food and there are students that cannot, so it is best that students should be able to choose a meal plan based on their financial aid and other savings they might have. The fact that EOU is not allowing students to make their own decisions creates a problem on its own. This is an issue because students are in charge of their own money and decisions. This could also make them feel as though they can’t be mature enough to provide food for themselves, especially since only freshman students are required to have a meal plan. This creates unnecessary expenses and doubt. Therefore, students shouldn’t be charged with any additional financial burdens. They can make a system that allows students to buy meals when needed. 

This brings me to my next point. Most students don’t need or use the meal plans because of the menu options. Eastern Oregon University has a lot of foreign students not familiar with the food that is currently being served. Therefore, it is very difficult to pay for a meal plan when they do not have inclusive meals to serve. As a foreign student at EOU, I noticed that they do not serve rice. For many students, rice is a base to every meal and they do not have much of a variety of different options here at Eastern Oregon University. There are also students that have specific diets like vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and many more. The food that they serve does not always accommodate the different diet restrictions that the students have. Therefore, students should not have to pay for a meal plan that has meals that they cannot eat, or are unavailable to them.

In conclusion, Eastern Oregon University should give freshman students the freedom to choose to pay for a meal plan or not, to be able to have multiple food options that are accommodated to their needs, and to be able to afford the meal plans at Eastern Oregon University. This would result in students having better financial stability and a better chance at succeeding in their studies.

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