Meal plans and students: What you need to know

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 at 9:53 PM
Meal plans and students: What you need to know by Hannah Webster

Food is the essential ingredient for human survival and, for some, a guilty pleasure. For college students, food is something to look forward to. It’s a break from the hectic world of studying and endless homework, or a chance to meet with friends in a casual setting. As young adults with busy schedules, it can be hard to maintain a healthy balance of meals. Having a campus meal plan, though, can help to make that happen.

Students who live on campus are required to have a meal plan. It’s part of the housing contract. Alexander Anderson, a freshman computer science major, runs out of meals every week unless he is out of town for a few days. He has the most basic traditional meal plan at 10 meals and $150 flex a semester. “I need to eat twice a day, especially because I play tennis & exercise every other day. So I can eat twice a day for five days and I have two days where I drink water and sleep on it,” said Anderson.

When Anderson runs out of meals, his friends are luckily there to help keep him fed. “I try and avoid eating off campus because it is expensive. The meal plan itself is overpriced in the first place, so might as well make the most of it,” he said.

At Edinboro University, students have two options when purchasing a meal plan. Those options are the block plans and traditional meal plans. Block meal plans allow students the flexibility to monitor their own meal usage. A student with a block plan has a set number of meals for the entire semester. However, students are limited to four meals a day, two in each zone. Zones break the day into two halves to manage the number of meals being purchased at a time. The first zone is from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and the second zone is from 3:31 p.m. to midnight. If students want to purchase more food in a day, they must use their flex.

Students with the block plan won’t run out of meals in the early weeks of the semester, but they could at the end of the semester. With traditional meal plans, students have a weekly allowance of meals. After using all their meals for the week, students cannot access more until Monday. The plans are designed to be used at Van Houten Dining Hall, but can be used at all campus dining locations, sometimes with additional “flex” money.

Commuter students are able to purchase a meal plan if they wish, but are not required to. These students are able to choose from any meal plan, including a flex only plan.

“Meal plans are important as they provide the best way to eat on campus. With a meal plan, students don’t have to worry about how they will get their next meal,” said Tom Decker, marketing manager of Chartwells. “Meal plans allow for students to get the most out of the dining program and provide them with nutritious well balanced meals.”

Sophomore, Becca Bortnick has a meal plan because she currently lives in the highlands. But next year when she is moving off campus, she doesn’t intend to purchase one. She says that while they are convenient, she thinks this change will help her to be more health conscious. “They (the meals) will be better for me and will taste better,” she said.

“I won’t have to worry about eating all of the fried food.” She recognizes that there are salads and other healthy alternatives at oncampus dining locations, but would rather make her own healthy food.

All meal plans come with a certain number of flex dollars, which students can use towards purchasing more than the $5.40 that one meal covers. “Flex works like a cash debit account. A student can purchase any food or beverage at our dining locations,” said Decker. If students run out, it is possible to add more block meals and flex points throughout the semester. These can be purchased at the university dining services and ID office or bursar’s office. It is also possible to charge a student’s meal plan bill to their university bill. Flex points will carry over from fall to spring semesters only as long as students remain on either meal plan.

Flex only plans are also offered to students who live off campus. This account is called a campus coin account and must have a minimum starting balance of $100 and no more than $400. All remaining flex money at the end of the spring semester will be credited to the student’s account. The money will either be applied to present outstanding balance or future outstanding balances if present balances are already accounted for. If leaving the college for any reason, all flex money will be refunded. As of last spring, the same happens with flex for all meal plans. If a student is unhappy with their meal plan mid-semester and wishes to decrease their meal plan, they are allowed to change it by the end of the first Friday of the new semester.

Students who want to increase or change to a new plan have until the second Friday of the new semester to make a change. A bill will then be charged to their student account if a change is made to their meal plan. Students are allowed to make changes to their meal plan after these time frames, however additional fees may be charged. Students can make changes at the Dining services and university student ID office located in Van Houten Dining Hall.

“It is a proven fact that students that eat well do better in their classes. Meal plans also allow students to get the most out of their university experience as meal plans help build campus community and usually food is involved as student memories are made,” said Decker. 

Hannah Webster handles social media for Edinboro Campus Media. She can be reached at

Tags: news, eu housing

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