From the Lommasson Center’s Cascade Country Store to the University Center (UC) Food Court, it’s not students’ stomachs that are grumbling. It’s their wallets.
All students living on campus are required to buy one of three UM meal plans each semester—Grizzly for $1,492, Silver for $1,283 or Copper for $1,039. Each student must spend a certain amount of the plan each week. If they don’t, their money does not carry over to the next week; rather, it is pooled and spent by Dining Services, the University Center, the Curry Health Center, the Adams Center, the Griz Card Center and the Office of Residence Life to maintain and renovate facilities, says UM Dining Services Director Mark LoParco. He says about 7 percent of UM’s student meal plan money (about $330,000 per year) isn’t spent, but that the industry standard for unspent student meal-plan money is 25 percent.
“I get some complaints,” he says, “but it’s less than I can count on one hand. That’s not to say that there’s not some unhappy campers out there, but the way our meal plans work there shouldn’t be any money left at the end of the week. Any student can spend the full account in one transaction.”
Sure, says freshman Rebecca Haag, but a lot of the Cascade Country Store offerings that will keep are junk food; she cites a bag of carrots as one of a few healthy options.
“It’s hard when you don’t have a fridge or a microwave,” agrees fellow freshman Kerra Collins, who says she will go down a level from the Grizzly plan to Silver next semester.
Sophomore Paul Nonnenmacher weighs in, too: “If I take a four-day weekend, that’s money wasted.” He says that while you can stockpile “random snack foods” at Cascade or in the UC, to make a full meal you need to go to Albertson’s.
LoParco, though, says he’s essentially running restaurants, and he’s got to pay the overhead whether or not a student eats. There are already 62 fewer students on meal plans this year than last, and while budgeted projected revenue from meal plans sounds large at roughly $4 million this year, budgeted projected net revenues (which are conservative, LoParco says) for all Dining Services after expenses are paid is just $180,000.