Why Caf Meal Plans Should be More Flexible

More results from the survey. Image courtesy of Goodson.

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Every person has a relationship with food and every person at Point Loma Nazarene University must have a relationship with the Caf.

I moved back on campus in January after dealing with some oh-so-common roommate problems in my off-campus apartment in San Diego. Over the course of being on my own, I had gotten used to managing my meals and planning them accordingly with my budget. I knew that being on campus would be a financial strain, but what I did not expect was it being a physical and emotional one as well. I started working more hours and cutting back on meals, becoming more tired, stressed and let myself slip into a hopeless place. 

Forms response chart. Question title: Has the meal plan affected you on any of these levels?. Number of responses: 50 responses.

When I broke down the cost of my meal plan — 180 meals per semester with $200 dining dollars and 10 guest meals — I discovered I was paying $14 per meal, which is the same I make in one hour at my part-time job. However, the upgraded (15 meals per week and $50 dining dollars) meal plan would be cheaper per meal but still out of my overall budget. I was frustrated and baffled that I was forced to pay for something I couldn’t afford just to consume lower quality meals. At first, I felt alone in my struggle, but as I began talking to students around me I found they had a lot to say.

Like any good participating citizen, I wanted to hear from the people. So, I designed some posters with a QR code linked to a survey to see how students felt about the cafeteria. I was surprised at the amount of responses that included the word “diarrhea.” Another interesting finding was how many people avoid the Caf or express frustration about living in Flex, where they have full kitchens yet are still required to pay for a meal plan. The dining hall is by no means all bad. The staff are some of the kindest and welcoming people to be around and it’s essential there be a place to access food easily on campus, especially for freshmen. The problem, as one surveyor, Tana Beckman, a junior political science major pointed out, is  “Why are we paying private school prices without the perks of a private school caf?” 

Forms response chart. Question title: What Meal Plan do have?. Number of responses: 51 responses.

So often PLNU’s emails, magazines and Instagram posts preach about holistic and healthy living. Heck, they even did a whole theme about the importance of healthy food in the Spring 2021 issue of Viewpoint Magazine. As much as the Caf tries with the variety of vegan options, the quality is not there. Furthermore, the pricing prevents lower income students from being able to eat the number of meals they need each day because they are compelled to choose the cheapest plan, which naturally has the least amount of meals. 

Forms response chart. Question title: If you could, would you want to opt out of a meal plan?. Number of responses: 51 responses.

Personally, I do not see why the meal plan is required for upperclassmen at all. Perhaps it’s because the school needs the funds from meal plans. If that’s the case, could it at least be done with better quality food and fair meal plan prices? Why not have a grocery store on campus? Breakers Market resembles a grocery store but with less products than a 7-Eleven. Another option could be to do something similar to the Loma Shares movement, where students have a food pantry to share with others in the dorms. At least there could be a more flexible meal plan option. Why do I have to spend more money for less food at the Caf when regular groceries are more affordable?

By: Jemima Goodson, junior graphic design major