Aramark makes changes to meal plans, equivalency

Students have noticed changes Aramark has made to meal plans and meal equivalencies as they return to the university for the 2014-15 academic year.

Students with meal plans at UCA have the option to trade out a meal at the Christian Cafeteria for a meal in the Student Center or other campus vendor. Meal equivalency allows students to choose an entrée, a side item and either a bottled water or 24-ounce fountain drink as a meal, verses dining in the cafeteria. Previously students had the option to choose two sides to go with their entrée instead of sticking with a drink and a side.

However, some policies have changed since last year in creating one’s own meal in the Student Center.

Sophomore Luz Elena said she noticed some policy changes when swapping sides when creating a meal at the Student Center.

Dining Services Director Jim Nabors said Aramark is always looking to improve its meal plans and works off of student feedback. Aramark also works closely with Finance and Administration Vice President Diane Newton, the housing department and the Student Government Association when looking to re-vamp meal plan and equivalency policies.

For the 2014-15 academic year, Nabors said Aramark only made a few changes to meal plan policies and that the meal equivalency plan will stand as one entrée, with the choice of a side and a drink.

“The few changes we made this year were taking the select juices away and the two sides away and making it an actual meal,” he said. “Very few changes will ever be made from that, but if there are changes made in the future, they will go through those two entities first before it is done.”

Elena said she would prefer to pick out two sides instead of being locked in choosing one side with one drink to go along with her entrée.

“I wish I could get two sides of pineapple,” she said. “Why can’t I get two sides of pineapple? I carry water with me and would always get two sides of pineapple last year instead of a drink.”

Elena is not the only upperclassman to report being negatively affected by meal plan policy changes.

Junior Lori Beth Stroderd, also said she wished students had the option to choose two sides instead of a drink and a side.

Nabors said this issue could be linked to production problems.

“We must think about our production issues,” he said. “We cannot produce enough in the space that we have to offer the two salads and various sides simply because it is a production issue.”

Nabors said several juice options have been removed from plans and that students must abide by the aforementioned terms to be eligible for meal equivalency.

“I don’t understand why we only have the option to get water and no other bottled drinks,” sophomore Mary Lindsey said.

Nabors said this complaint is difficult to address because there is currently no room for expansion in the Student Center’s bottled drink area.

“There is no space for expansion in the bottled drink area of the Student Center and no room for drinks other than water and the juices,” he said. “But, students are able to purchase these bottled drinks [such as Coca-Cola and other Coke-related products]in the Pod store/C-Store next door, if they choose.”

Students have also expressed negative views toward not being able to substitute products such as Vitamin Water as their beverage when creating meals in the Student Center.

“I wish the Vitamin Water and bottled juices counted toward the block meals in the Student Center rather than the dining dollars,” Stroderd said.

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