What is the Best Meal Plan Option for You?

Maddie Urness, Columnist

Hamline is a prestigious school with starving students. At least my friends and I are.
In my personal opinion, the food served at the Bistro, located in Anderson, could be … well, improved. The price to get food at the Bistro is always different depending on the time you go, and I’ve seen it cost anywhere between $9 to $11. I would like to assume that students at Hamline would argue that that is too expensive, at least for the food that we receive.
The food could have more flavor and better availability, and the desserts have been off ever since Gary left. I could go on and on about how it would be nice to have more options than hamburgers, pizza and salad, but that’s not the main point of this article. This segment is here to inform you about the costs behind your meal plan if you have one and which plan might be the best for you. The next paragraph contains math and numbers, so if that’s not for you, go ahead and skip to the bottom.

While you read this, keep in mind the fact that first years and sophomores who live on campus are required to have a meal plan. This means they don’t have to pay for their meals … after buying the plan in the first place, of course. So what is the best option to get the most bang for your buck? Let’s start by talking about the different meal plans that Hamline provides.
Every meal plan comes with a certain amount of meal swipes and a certain amount of declining balance (DB). DB is just regular money that is put on your student ID card. It can be refilled anytime, and is not taxed (so I personally would recommend filling it if you want to save a few bucks).
The cheapest meal plan is the 40 Block. It is $563 and it comes with forty swipes and $150 worth of DB. If my math is correct, this comes to $10.33 per swipe. I think this is a fair price.
The next cheapest meal plan, the 75 Block, is a whopping $2,242. It comes with $900 in DB, which is more than the previous plan and even the – more expensive – unlimited plan that only comes with $400. Again, assuming my math is right, the 75 block plan adds up to about $17.90 for every swipe, which I don’t think I am on my own when I say that that is ridiculous.
The most expensive option, the All Access Dining, is $3,031 in total, with $400 in DB and an unlimited number of swipes. Like I mentioned earlier, the price to get into the Bistro varies, so for the sake of this math problem, let’s call it an even $10. With that being said, a student with this plan would need to swipe 263 times in order to get their money’s worth. Assuming there is approximately 120 days in the semester that the Bistro would be open (five months minus about one month of breaks), this means that they would need to swipe about two times a day, every day.

I know that was a lot of numbers, so in case your eyes glazed over, or you took my advice and just skipped down here, the big idea is that none of the meal plans are great options.
The unlimited meal plan is the easiest option, and it is the plan that most first years choose, I assume because they either don’t know how much they plan on eating in their average day at college, or because they simply didn’t take the time to do the math like I did right now.
I’m not saying this is a terrible meal plan, but if you don’t have much time to walk across campus two or three times a day, maybe this isn’t the option for you.
It makes sense to buy the 75 Block plan if you would eat about once a day, but I hope we can all agree that this plan is outrageously expensive and is not worth your money. In the end, it’s a waste of about $500.
I think the meal plan that is going to give you your money’s worth is the 40 Block meal plan. The downside is the obvious – there are only 40 swipes and not a lot of DB. Although it is a very small plan, this is a good option for those of you who don’t eat a lot at Anderson, whether that’s because you commute, dine in or cook your own meals.

On its own, this article most likely won’t change anything about how much the meal plans cost, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to pay terrible prices. There are ways for you to voice your thoughts about this topic.
Hamline Dining Services occasionally has surveys for students to fill out, about the overall quality of food, staffing and accessibility, and they usually have a section where you can share your concerns. If this article moved you in any way, be sure to fill out those surveys when they are provided. If not, at least now you’re a little more informed on where your money’s going at Hamline.