Getting off meal plan no longer a piece of cake

Wake up, practice, eat, class, eat, meeting, class, eat, activity, eat, work, eat, study, eat, study, eat, eat, eat, eat…. At Wheaton, like all colleges and universities, the topic and occasional issue of eating and dining is one that rests in the minds of students almost round-the-clock.

For some, if it’s edible, then they will eat it. For others, regulation of the content of one’s food intake is necessary. This is typically due to specific dietary preferences and restrictions (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and others).

The dining halls on Wheaton’s campus have been trying to adapt and appeal to the wide variety of dietary needs on campus, but some students want the freedom to buy and cook their own food. They simply do not want to be a part of the meal-plan.

At Wheaton, the issue of getting off the meal plan seems to be commonplace. In past years, students were able to get off of the plan through an application process, including a statement explaining why they should be allowed to ‘remove themselves’ from the plan.

Now, in order to get off of plan one must have a severe dietary issue, allergy, or another substantial, and convincing, argument to present. The process is seemingly lengthy and difficult.

“It used to be more simple,” said Ciara Sidell ’15, a self-proclaimed “vegetarian with vegan tendencies” (the community understands; Emerson has enticingly appealing mac-n-cheese). 

“For me, it is a lifestyle,” says Sidell, who grew up in a household that fostered veganism. Many Wheaton students feel similarly due to familial, cultural or allergenic reasons. Wheaton’s campus is one that nurtures diversity, and many agree that this should not stop outside the Chase and Emerson doors.

In order to have her application approved, Sidell had to go through an unusually extensive process. As of this year, most students who got off the meal plan in years past will not have to go through this lengthy process; Sidell had no such luck. As a result of her persistence to get the full “dining hall experience,” Sidell was unable to be “grandfathered into the new system” of automatic removal from the meal plan.

In the end, it took Sidell three months for her application to be approved. Now, after what seems like eternity, she is off of the meal plan and cooking for herself.

There is certainly room for improvement, but it should be noted that, because Sidell’s application was reviewed at a time of change to the application process, her story might not be the best example to test the efficacy of the procedure for the future. 

Director of Dining Services John Bragel could not be reached for comment on this story.

For additional commentary on the meal plan, read Maggie McDonough’s ’15 account of her own experience on our website,