I haven’t had a meal plan since freshman year. That’s for two reasons: the exorbitant price and the lack of options for people with alternate diets. As a vegetarian with fairly serious food allergies, when I ate in the dining halls it was a system of daily repetition. I would eat the same thing every day. My choices were a veggie burger, one sandwich, one of the pizzas, etc.
The options were seriously limited, and I could not justify paying so much for a standard plan if I could barely eat at any of the locations. IU needs to allow students to opt out of having a meal plan or increase their options for students with allergies or alternate diets.
The cost of a standard meal plan is $3,300 per year. While this is not much compared to the cost of living in a residence hall, it is a huge amount of money for most students. And while the meal plans have diversified recently to include more healthy eating options, there still are not a lot of options for students who had alternate diets.
Being vegetarian was a choice for me, and that means that I choose to have more difficulties in funding food. This is not the case for people with food allergies. One of my friends had celiac disease and could buy almost nothing in the dining hall for fear of gluten cross-contamination. While you can make appointments with the campus nutritionists, they will tell you what you can eat, and the options are not going to be vast.
There are two ways to resolve this situation. Students with specific diet plans or food allergies should be allowed to opt out of the University meal plans, even as freshmen, or IU needs to work in order to make more alternate diet-friendly foods available. While this would decrease the money that Residential Programs and Services gains, it would also prevent students from paying for a resource they do not need.
For me, it was a waste to have a meal plan because the food that I could buy barely affected my number of meal points. I would have preferred having a smaller meal plan just so all this money that I paid was used for something else.
The dining halls are convenient and for the majority of freshmen, they offer a large number of options. However, for a growing segment of IU students, meal plans are costly and ineffective.
By not having more options for these students and also not allowing them to opt out of the required meal plan, the school is just costing these students money that will never be used. This is a burden for them, and will end up costing these students more as they have to not only pay for the meal plan but their own food on top of it.
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