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Brandeis Hospitality announces new meal plan; students raise alarm

On April 26, Brandeis Hospitality announced new meal plans coming at the start of the fall 2023 semester. The changes include adding in unlimited “All Access” meal plans and removing the traditional weekly meal plans. 

“Over the last two years, Brandeis University students have been gauged on what changes they wanted to see in their meal plan program,⁣” reads the caption to the Brandeis Hospitality’s Instagram post announcing the changes in dining option. 

The new plans, which can be found on Brandeis Hospitality’s website, included an “All Access + 10 Weekly Meal Exchanges w/ $250 Points” plan for $4,180 per semester and an “All Access + 5 Weekly Meal Exchanges w/ $175 Points” plan for $3,829 per semester. These plans are the options for students living on campus who do not have a kitchen in their dorm. 

In an email to The Brandeis Hoot, Matthew Carty, Harvest Table’s Guest Experience Manager, explained the reasoning behind these changes. He noted that “The decision to eliminate the 10, 12, 15 and 19 Meal Plans and to go with the All Access Plans was not made lightly. When Brandeis was in the process of selecting a new food services operator, the meal plans were in play and consideration beginning in fall of 2021. A committee, chaired by the VP of Operations with membership including representatives from the Provost’s Office, Student Affairs, Finance & Administration, the grad schools, A&S [Arts and Sciences] and the Student Union, oversaw the RFP [dining request for proposals] process.” Carty added that “The selection of Harvest Table and the development of the new meal plans was informed by an inclusive seven-month process with stakeholder interviews in the fall (2021), vendor materials posted online, a portal through which we received close to 400 comments (mostly from students) and community presentations attended by hundreds of students, faculty and staff. ”

Prior to these new meal plans, students could choose from weekly plans of either 10 meals, 12 meals, 15 meals or 19 meals. Each plan included a set number of points. These meal plans would be used over the course of a week and would reset on Monday to the total meals in accordance with your plan. In fall 2021, the 12-meal plan cost $3,535 per semester. In the spring 2023 semester, the 10 meal plan cost $2,993, according to bank statements obtained by The Hoot. 

In his email with The Hoot, Carty noted that “There is always a price increase from year to year. The All Access +5 is priced the same as the current 12 Meal Plan plus the year over year increase. In otherwords, if the 12 Meal Plan was being carried into next year, it would be priced the same as the All Access +5 plan.” 

Students who live in dorms with kitchens, including Foster Mods, Ridgewood and Charles River Apartments can also choose to select from additional choices of the “120 Block Meals + $400 Points Per Semester” plan for $1,795 per semester or the “80 Block Meals + $300 Points” plan for $1,415 per semester. These two meal plan options are currently available; however, there is a price change. According to bank statements obtained by The Brandeis Hoot, during the fall 2022 semester the 120 Block plan cost $1,579.02 and the 80 Block plan cost $1,355.00. Under the new meal plan models this increases the price for the same amount of access to dining halls and the same value of points. 

Brandeis Hospitality also included meal plans available for commuter students. Commuter students can select from a “90 Block Meals + $100 Points” plan for $1,125 per semester or the “60 Block Meals + $60 Points” plan for $870 per semester. Another new plan is a “Points Only Plan” for $250 per semester, this plan is designed for commuters as well. 

For graduate students, the university also has meal plans available including “30 Block Meals” plan for $345 per semester and a “15 Block Meal” plan for $205 per semester. 

Students voiced their concerns about the meal plans in the comments of Brandeis Hospitality’s Instagram post. One commenter said, “This is more expensive than any of the plans we have now and the dining halls give everyone food poisoning, the students are actively against this.” 

Other users also added comments including, “Nobody asked for unlimited access! You claim you’re listening to students but you’re not. These new plans are not fair to low-income students. Y’all claim that it’s great to be able to add points but that is real money. Please try actually listening to us.” There were more than 46 comments on the post at the time of publication in opposition of the newly announced meal plans.. 

In Carty’s email to The Hoot, he said that “The All Access plan will provide students with unlimited access to both the Sherman and Usdan dining halls. That said, rather than using points to grab a snack or a coffee, one will be able to enter the dining halls to grab a snack, piece of fruit, get a sandwich or salad to go, or to fill their reusable beverage mug. One can literally come and go as many times as they wish. This is the value of the All Access plans. Students will no longer need to ration their meal swipes. Currently, 93% of our students living in traditional residence halls are on the 10 or 12 Meal Plan which is an insufficient number of meals for the student who is on campus seven (7) days a week. It is not uncommon for students to use a credit card or other form of payment (e.g. points) to gain access to the dining halls at the end of the week when they’ve exhausted their meals. This will no longer be the case.”

Brandeis Hospitality responded to many of these negative comments with the message, “Thank you and we welcome your feedback. We would love the opportunity to speak with you about your experience and walk you through the new meal plans. Please contact us through the ‘contact-us’ page on brandeishospitality.com.”

The meal plans had been leaked to the public prior to their official release on April 26. Student-run accounts shared screenshots of the plans on social media through the Instagram Story feature, though if community members attempted to access the webpage with the plans later that day, the same page became password-protected so the general public could not view it. Carty noted that “The link had not been made public because the launch date for the new meal plan information was planned for May 1st to follow housing selection. Students need to know where they are living before selecting a meal plan. The launch date has been moved up to Wednesday, April 26,” in his email to The Hoot.

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