Mandatory meal plans lack options

David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

While adjusting to life in the residence halls, meals aren’t exactly students’ biggest concern. Only after you’ve unpacked your luggage, chalked out your territory and thought about looking for your classes, does hunger work its way into your schedule.

If you’re living on campus, then you have been required to purchase a meal plan. As far as the University’s been willing to admit, the concept’s pretty fair: College is about change and most of it is unavoidable.

If you force this change on your students under the guise of endless pizza, rationed pancakes and buffet-style salad, then students will be more inclined to happily accept required meal plans as inevitable. They might not even mind the extra $2,000 per semester.

This might be fine for some, but for many, it doesn’t work. Students are unfairly limited to a small variety of food offered in the two on-campus cafeterias, when they could instead visit a grocery store and buy food they actually want on their budget. College is about independence after all.

Most of the dining halls food options are not intended for students trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Occasionally something nutritious will make it on the day’s menu, but the usual choices are not meals every student would be content with consuming. And students can only eat so much salad.

A handful of students might be up to the challenge, having navigated similar situations before, but just as many of them won’t be. Eventually, students will venture elsewhere for food and be left with more meal swipes than they know what to do with at the end of the semester.

It would be one thing if the dining halls added correct nutrition information, but that’s not the case. The nutrition information posted in the cafeteria and online is a great idea, but is unfortunately inconsistent and at times, inaccurate.

If UH is going to charge its patrons to survive, the least it could do is explain to them what they’re eating.

The problem becomes less about the dining halls than the organization surrounding them. The steps the dining halls have taken have been considerably lacking in their emphasis on nutritional guidelines, intake and terrible business of watching your weight. Life’s hard enough for a student without having to worry about obesity.

The concept of a mandatory meal plan looks disastrous on paper, but a proficient process might reveal it as better than advertised. Worst case scenario, it’d keep off a pound or two.

A campus cafeteria is intended to be a place for socializing as much as it is a place for eating. As a school pushing for a bigger on-campus community, the dining halls are a vital part of the experience and should be treated so.

It’s unfair to require students who are already paying so much for rent to also purchase a meal plan when the options don’t efficiently cater to the diets of all students.

The dining halls do their best to mix it up, but it’s just too difficult to cover everyone. It isn’t necessary to force students to eat there.

The dining halls won’t suddenly be deserted in the absence of mandatory meal plans. They will still be a place for students of all classifications to congregate for a meal. Many students will continue to purchase the meal plans and fill the seats. They’ll pay the money because of the convenient location or because they’re happy with the food.

There’s no reason to be so forceful. Letting the students decide is the most appropriate way to handle meal plans.

Contributed to by Lucas Sepulveda.

Bryan Washington is a sociology and English sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].


  • I admit I have only eaten at the Moody Towers cafeteria twice, but both times I have gone for lunch I have seen a wide variety of food available.
    One station served grilled fish with vegetables, another had pasta with several sauces as well as an assortement of veggies. There was a sandwhich area which gave many healthy options to put in your sandwhich, as well as a salad bar. I saw grilled chicken items, and healthy desserts, along with other more decadent deserts. Besides sodas, there were various juices, and milk available. This was all in one day mind you.
    The addition of the new dining area by the Quad promises to add even more healthy solutions.
    As an alumn who lived on campus from Fall ’91 to Summer ’93 I can say that the cafeteria has greatly improved it’s offerings.
    I do miss the delicious beef ribs on Fridays though!

    • Oh, and a great lady named Melrita who used to make me the most delicious turkey sandwhiches to order.

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