UI to revamp dining hall meal plans for next fall

BY ERIC CLARK | OCTOBER 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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“Rollover” — a concept many cell-phone users are familiar with, will be applied to the University of Iowa residential dining service next fall. 

The current meal system offers three main plans, which include 20, 14, or 10 weekly meals, and cost $1,450, $1,400, and $1,287.50, respectively, per semester.

Any unused meals do not carry over to the following week.

But in the fall of 2013, the old plan will be scrapped in favor of one with at least two options. A “block pack,” which will offer 220 meals per semester, will be available, along with an unlimited meal package. Associated Residence Hall Executive Director Sean Ryan called the unlimited package the “golden pack.”

While Ryan said the price of the meal plans have yet to be determined, students should not expect much of an increase in their payments.

“It won’t be excessively higher,” he said. “But we’re still working out the details.”

Ryan said one of the details worked out is the implementation of Hawk dollars into the meal plans. Hawk dollars, which are available through students’ room contracts, can be used at select vending machines on campus as well as in UI convenience stores.

UI Director of Housing and Dining Von Stange said the revamp of the meal plans will allow students to get more value out of their meals.

While the University’s “Grab and Go” lunch program no longer exists, Stange hopes the new meal plans, which will include meal equivalency pickup at numerous UI locations, will be able to facilitate students who eat their meals on the go.

“It was a difficult program to administer,” he said.

He cited the need for extra staff and additional work as one of the main reasons for the program’s closing.

Ryan said the most attractive element of the new meal plans is the flexibility.

“If you go to Burge around 12:30, it’s really busy, and it can be a hassle,” he said.

The new plan will include the ability to continue to use meal swipes at Pat’s Diner, both Burge and Hillcrest Marketplaces, as well as the River Room Café, the Mayflower convenience store, and Food for Thought, located in the Main Library.

UI freshman Randi Dooley thinks the new plans are a good idea, because the semester block of meals provides less constraint on student’s schedules.

“People’s schedules vary from week to week,” she said. “And this allows for more leeway than the weekly number of swipes.”

Stange said the UI plans to incur some cost because of the upped emphasis on portable meals, but that the costs are worth it to become more accommodating to students.

Hillcrest will also add a Sunday dinner to its menu, Stange said. Burge will serve only breakfast and lunch on Sundays, and Hillcrest will serve lunch and dinner. The change will accommodate UI staff, because there will only be one working shift per dining center.

Stange hopes by providing “rollover” meal plans and adding portability, the UI dining service will become more efficient in serving students.

“Students didn’t feel like there was good value with the current system,” he said. “The new plans should give them more flexibility.”

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