New meal plan adds flexibility after controversial year for campus dining

The+Students+for+a+Democratic+Society+marched+from+Taylor+Hall+to+the+K+to+protest+the+food+service+conditions+for+students+dining+and+working+on+campus+on+Tuesday%2C+October+5.

Sophia Lucente

The Students for a Democratic Society marched from Taylor Hall to the K to protest the food service conditions for students dining and working on campus on Tuesday, October 5.

Following a year of protests over on-campus dining, Kent State students have a new meal plan option to choose from starting in the fall 2022 semester.

For $2,448 a semester, the Flash 200 Block plan includes 200 meal swipes for Eastway and DI dining halls, 10 guest swipes and $300 in declining balance. Along with these options is a new feature exclusive to the plan of $100 in Downtown Dining Dollars to use at participating Kent restaurants.

Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year complaints over student worker wages, unappetizing meals, lack of variety in dining halls, minimal accommodations for dietary needs and alleged raw chicken circulated on social media. Before the fall semester ended, an online petition demanding refunds for meal plans garnered more than 5,000, signatures and students organized and led demonstrations across campus.

Culinary services promised a change to the on-campus dining experience following the rocky start and the new meal plan is a part of this response, said Jill Jenkins,
the senior executive director of university housing and culinary services.

“It was born out of a lot of students’ requests [that] they don’t need the unlimited plan,” Jenkins said. “They wanted to see if there was something more flexible than an unlimited plan so that they didn’t have to purchase unlimited, which they did not see themselves using as much.”

Blue plan, which includes $100 in declining balance and 15 guest swipes, according to prices displayed to students on FlashLine at the time of purchase. As of August, only 402 students purchased the Flash 200 Block plan, compared to 3,648 who purchased the Blue plan. The flexibility is not from a price standpoint or the number of meal swipes but rather the variety in locations a student can get their meals from, Jenkins said.

“If they see that becoming a challenge for them, then the next semester they can switch to the Blue plan,” Jenkins said. “I would say for most students, they’re going to be fine on this plan, because 200 times to the dining hall is a lot more than a student might think it is.”

The plan is targeted toward first and second-year students under the age of 20 who are required to live on campus and purchase a meal plan, Jenkins said. If a student eats three meals a day, their meal swipes would run out in approximately 66 days. When asked why the university requires this policy for those specific groups and if the plan is a way to profit off student frustrations, Jenkins was unable to respond before deadline due to previous commitments.

Maya Niesz Kutsch, the chair of Kent State Students for a Democratic Society, which played a role in organizing student protests, said in a statement to KentWired that the plan does not go far enough in addressing dining concerns.

Alton Northup is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]