Proposed budget features new meal plan, increased dining prices

Students wait in line at Avo Kitchen, a dining location on Monroe Park campus, on April 19. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

VCU’s proposed budget for 2021-22 features a new dining plan with unlimited meal swipes and an increase in current meal plan prices.

The proposed new meal plan features unlimited swipes, meaning a student would have unfettered access to Market 810 and other swipe exchanges. The plan would either cost $2,910 or $2,952 for the semester. VCU is unable to provide further details as nothing has been approved for the upcoming year, university spokesperson Anna Obermiller stated in an email.

“An All-Access Plan could be popular for those who would like to eat beyond the typical 3 times a day and spread their meals out into smaller meals throughout the day,” Obermiller stated.

The proposed budget is available on the Office of the President’s website. The Board of Visitors will vote on the budget on May 14 during its meeting. Anyone can provide feedback through the open comment portal.A

Freshman international studies major Gabrielle Dietrich has a gluten intolerance and finds it hard to eat on her current VCU meal plan. She said she currently has more than 100 swipes remaining with less than a month left in the semester.

“The amount I have now is basically unlimited to me since I know I won’t use them,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich said she believes some people would benefit from an all-access plan, particularly those who go to the dining hall multiple times a day, or for those who have larger appetites. Students who live on campus are required to purchase one of VCU’s recommended meal plans.

The proposed increase in meal plan prices would increase the default dining plan for students, 200 swipes and $225 dining dollars, by $91 or $119. Swipes are currently valued at $10.05 according to VCUDine. The proposed price increase is equivalent to between nine and 11 swipes. Increasing the cost of dining plans is done to offset the program’s expenses, Obermiller stated.

Students wait for their food at Laurel & Grace Place, where meal plan options Canes, Bento and Twisted Taco are located, on April 15. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Freshman communication arts major Hannah Minnix is Dietrich’s roommate. The two are moving into an on-campus apartment next year.

“The pricing of meal plans is probably why we won’t have a very high meal plan,” Minnix said.

Minnix called the proposed increase in meal plan prices “ridiculous.” She pointed out how allergies limit people from eating at specific locations, such as Panda Express and Raising Cane’s.

“You’re paying more to limit what you can eat,” Minnix said.

The True Balance station at Avo Kitchen offers food free of the top eight allergens. Food there is available to all students and encouraged for those who are allergen-conscious. 

The University of Richmond, located about five miles west of VCU, requires residential students without kitchen access to purchase its unlimited swipe plan. The Spider Unlimited costs $3,700.00 per semester and the Spider Plus Unlimited costs $4,025.00 per semester. Meal plan holders can only use meal swipes and dining dollars on themselves, according to the university’s meal plan policies.

VCU has not yet made decisions on the specific parameters an unlimited swipe plan would have, as students can currently swipe other students who have completed their entry pass into the dining hall.

Students will receive a survey this week that will help determine dining locations for the next year. Decisions should be finalized in the coming months, Obermiller stated.

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