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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Students regret overbuying meal plans

No ability to downgrade between semesters


Over the summer when students were asked to pick their meal plans for the coming year, Gianna Penezic ’21 chose the plan that offered her eight meals per week. 

“I figured I would have a meal a day and then two meals on the weekend and then a couple nights a week if I needed them for dinner,” Penezic said.

In reality, Penezic said she has not been to Campion Dining Hall as much as she thought she would. She cooks in her kitchen in Lannon Hall instead. And she regrets paying $3,614 for a plan she doesn’t use.

“I wish I did something else other than the eight-meal swipe,” she said. “I just don’t find myself going as much as I thought I would.”

By this point in the fall semester, many St. Joe’s students with weekly block meal plans are settled into similar regret: They bought too many SJU Dining Services meals, and they’ve realized they’re never going to use them.

The university offers seven different meal plans for students to purchase for the academic year. These plans include unlimited access, eight or 12 meals or swipes per week, and 25, 50 or 75 meal swipes per semester. First-year students and some students in on-campus houses, are required to have an unlimited meal plan. Others are able to choose.

Prices for meal plans, which have been in place since 2011, vary from $1,204 for 25 swipes a semester, $1,886 for 50 swipes a semester, $2,496 for 75 swipes a semester, $3,614 for a weekly plan and $5,416 for unlimited access.

Each meal plan includes funds which can be used at places such as Starbucks, DB, POD Market and Einstein Bro. Bagels.

Bowman Rathe ’21, a resident of Lannon Hall, bought the weekly plan as well, with 12 swipes per week.

“I knew I had to at least eat two times a day and I did not think I would have enough money to spend on other stuff like McDonalds or Larry’s, so I would have a guaranteed meal every week,” Rathe said.

But Rathe also said he has not used his plan because Lannon is so far from Campion and he just uses his kitchen instead.

“I definitely would downgrade to a lower plan if I had the opportunity,” Rathe said.

But downgrading to a lower plan is not an option, according to Ken Goldbach, general manager for SJU Dining Services.

“Students are allowed to upgrade or add on another plan but can not go down because it is an annual contract,” he said.

Goldbach said the university wants students to pick a meal plan that will most benefit them, and he said he thinks the available options do that.

“We provide flexibility and options for students to pick and choose what meal plans fit their lifestyle the best way,” he said.

While students are not allowed to decrease their meal plans between semesters, their unused DB does carry over from fall to spring. But unused meals do not.

“It’s the development in the way the programs are designed and costed out per semester, so developing flexibility to choose the programs that make sense,” Goldbach said. “DB is there for flexibility. Sometimes you find students may not use it in the first half of the year like fall semester, so we provide that flexibility for them to roll it over and use it in the spring semester. We encourage students to use it wisely and timely.”

At some universities, like New York University and Columbia University, unused meals can be donated to feed hungry people through an app called Share Meals.

Goldbach said the university is considering doing something similar to the Share Meals concept with unused declining balance beginning in the spring semester.

“One of the things that we are looking to do, is with the declining balance you can use your declining balance to buy gift baskets or paper bag meals to be donated to different causes,” he said.

Erin Kelly ’21 said she thinks this is a great idea.

“It would make me happy to know that my unused DB can be used to impact someone else’s life in a positive way,” Kelly said. “I have a strong belief that many other students would act upon this as well.”

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