Dining options rip off students

Graphic by Kelby Lorenz

Most college students are broke. Here at Lindenwood, we are no exception. We have to deal with a lot of expenses including food. The university is not making it easier for us; in fact, it is making it more expensive.

Lindenwood offers three different meal plans for residents, all costing the same amount of money. Each one of them has a specific amount of “dining dollars,” which can be used throughout campus to purchase pretty much anything.

The “traditional” meal plan has 19 meals per week and 50 dining dollars. The “flexible value” plan has 140 meals and 150 dining dollars. Lastly, the “most flexible value” plan allows students to eat 100 meals on campus and have 350 dining dollars.

According to the student portal, this semester, students with the traditional meal plan can eat 319 times. It means that students who chose the second meal plan, or 140 meals, can dine at the cafeteria less than half of the times students with the traditional one can. Knowing that dinner at the cafeteria costs $10, students with the flexible meal plans should receive significantly more dining dollars than they actually do.

When it comes to the convenience store or Lion’s Pride Market, prices are insanely high. I compared the price of different items that are sold both on campus and at Schnucks, across the street. A Cliff Bar will cost you $2.29 — taxes not included — if you buy it at the convenience store located in Spellmann, but only $1.29 if you get it at Schnucks.

The new Farmers’ Market available on Friday at Spellmann is a really good initiative. It encourages students to eat more fruits and vegetables and to be overall more healthy. However, once again, most of the products cost much more money on campus than at other nearby stores.

For example, students have to pay $2 for a single sweet potato at the Lion’s Pride Market. They can spend the same amount of money at another store off campus and get a three-pound bag of sweet potatoes. The difference is colossal.

In addition to the high prices, even if we have a way to know the exact number of meals and dining dollars we have used, at the end of the semester, Lindenwood does not give us back the ones we didn’t consume. However, at other schools in the area like Webster University, the dining dollars — or “points” like they call them at WU — roll over from the fall semester to the spring.

Also, students who live in houses have the opportunity to cook for themselves since most have access to kitchens. If they want to do so, they can either buy the few extremely expensive products available at the Farmers’ Market or buy their own ingredients.

If they go for the second option, it means they have to pay twice for their food: once as part of the meal plan, and then for what they are going to cook. Indeed, if students want to keep living on campus, they don’t have the option not to pay for a meal plan.

On top of that, Lindenwood is planning to raise the cost of single rooms, which are what most houses have. It means that students who live in houses would have to pay more for their rooms and houses without having the possibility to pay less for the food. It does not seem fair.

I know that international students, like me, would lose their grants if they decided to live off campus, rent apartments and pay for their own food. It does not leave us with many options.

With limited budgets and long lists of expenses, students have to make choices. They can prioritize their health and well-being by choosing to spend more money on food, but might have to give up on other important things that might even benefit their education.

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