Food Committee finalizes proposed changes for 2011-2012 meal plans

Karen Jennings and Matt Wettengel

The Food Committee, a collection of students and ISU Dining employees who evaluate dining services, developed a plan under which students will be able to budget their meals on a more individual basis and meal block plans will be made available to all students next semester.

The new meal plans proposed for fall 2011 have a missed meal factor, which means students are no longer given a certain number of meals each week, but have a certain number to be used whenever they want throughout a semester.

“Students have to budget themselves,” Levandowski said. “It’s creating value and convenience.”

All meal plans are proposed to become these semester plans by fall 2011.

Nancy Levandowski, director of ISU Dining, and members of the Food Committee debated whether to have a .2 percent or a 2.4 percent increase on the price of meal plans, but finally decided on a 1.5 percent increase.

“I knew that this was going to be a tough year, and I looked at 2.4 for this next year and I felt that that was fair — it would cover the expenses, I wouldn’t have to change a lot of the things that we’re doing, and it would give us enough capital to where I felt comfortable,” Levandowski said.

The compromise left Levandowski and the students involved at a comfortable level where the increase would provide a sufficient amount of income for dining without adding too much additional cost to students’ meal plans.

Planning for future meal plans is based on food costs and potential and necessary facility repairs. Hawthorn Market & Cafe is one of the centers currently in need of repair.

“There’s not enough equipment out there to keep up. There’s a tiny little fryer, which was fine when we opened, but it’s not fine anymore because we’re much busier,” said Kristi Patel, assistant director of campus dining services. “In order to get the food out faster to people, we don’t have enough equipment. The prep deck for pizza is also broken.”

Some in the committee believed things Iowa State doesn’t necessarily need should be eliminated. Nate Dobbels, senior in agriculture and life sciences education, suggested cutting the premium entree option that dining centers provide.

“I never used my premium entrees. I didn’t know we had them. I think a lot of students don’t use them or don’t know we have them,” Dobbels said.

Guest passes for meals are in the discussion for next year. Levandowski is looking for student feedback on what an ideal and viable number would be per semester.

The process to get everything done takes about seven months, starting with the students in the committee and ending with a presentation to the Board of Regents, where the changes will have to be approved.

Levandowski takes full responsibility for the proposal of the meal plan. She prepared the cost analysis to budget the total of what meal plans will look like next year.

The final proposal includes a $0.10-per-hour increase in raises plus meals for employees. Dining will cut back Conversations’ hours starting next semester, closing it an hour earlier Monday through Thursday and two hours earlier Fridays. This will save money spent on employee wages who work while the center experiences only light traffic in the late-night hours.

The Food Committee has been active for three years. The committee consists of about 15 people, including students and employees. They meet every third Thursday of the month in the Heritage Room at Union Drive Marketplace. At the meetings they handle issues based on food costs, meal plans and dining centers, and consider changes for following years.

“It is important to get a core of students together and be the voice of students,” Levandowski said. “It’s also an outlet to people who aren’t on the meal plan.”