Dining Changes Cause Concern Among Students

Students at Wheaton have felt a mix of concern and discontent with the changes that the college has made to the meal plans. Some students have already run out of their Lyons Bucks, and many students not on the unlimited plan feel they do not have enough meal swipes to use each week.

Wheaton College announced on June 12, 2023 that changes had been made to the meal plans available to students. The first option was for students to opt into the unlimited plan, which costs $3600 per semester and allows students to use one meal swipe at either Hood, Diana Davis, or Emerson per meal period, as well as any number of meal swipes at Chase.

Yet many sophomores and upperclassmen opted to select one of the other two meal plans,

given the fact they are less expensive and provide students with more Lyons Bucks. One of the plans allows fourteen meal swipes per week, while the third plan (which is reserved for students living in theme houses) receives ten per week. Any unspent meal swipes are lost at the end of the week.

An added challenge to students not on the unlimited meal plan is that Chase has returned to making take out meals cost students an additional meal swipe. Therefore, any students who hoped to be able to eat at Chase and take food with them are unable to do so without paying extra.

Wheaton College’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Darnell Parker explained that the changes made to the meal plans are a way to make sure students do not run

out of meal swipes at the end of the semester. 

“To give some background, when I first arrived here we had students saying they had food insecurity. [Students received] all [their] meals up front, students were not keeping track of the meals, then you ran into food insecurity,” said Parker.

These plans encourage students to budget their meal swipes so they will not run out completely by the end of the semester. Yet, some students still feel that if they were allowed to let unused meal swipes carry over week to week that they would be better off.

Parker also said that the meal plans offered have been budgeted so that students will have enough meal swipes to last the semester. Previous plans at Wheaton did not permit students to let their unused swipes carry over either.

“You have fourteen meals unlimited for an entire week, they reset again the following week. The old block plans did not do that so you have food options from the start of the semester to finals because you will not run out. When evaluating the plans, we realized students received more meals during the semester than they would on the block plan.” 

This does not apply to Lyons Bucks, which students are able to spend as they choose. Yet many students feel the cost of meals that are spent with Lyons Bucks are too high, and that these prices are eating into their supply. While the meals can be expensive, Parker said that Wheaton accounted for inflation when considering the meal plans, and that meal swipes are intended to be the main way for students to get food on campus.

“I want to make it vehemently clear to students that we’ve seen an increase in food prices. We did not pass that onto you. We ate it,”

Wheaton College’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Darnell Parker

Some students are still unhappy with these changes. However, Parker says that these new policies were made with input from those outside of the administration.

“When we did this, we spoke to students, we spoke to parents, we talked to other colleges and universities about their meal plan. We looked at this from an equity minded approach. We asked who was disadvantaged by this plan; it was very hard to tell who was,” said Parker.