Students seek answers in light of changes being made to Bethel’s dining services.
By Hannah Toutge
When the Monson Dining Center re-opened for the academic year, students noticed slower service and fewer stations open on weekends.
Sodexo General Manager Bob Schuchardt (affectionately referred to as “Sodexo Bob” by the student population) explained that reforms are necessary due to the large number of students who go home or eat off campus during the weekends.
“When you go from 1,200 students per a meal down to 450 on the weekends, some changes are needed,” Schuchardt said. “You can’t have everything open when no one is around.”
In response to complaints of slower service, Schuchardt reminds students that Sodexo is still training in new workers, including a new executive chef starting in October.
Some students in the class of 2021 report feeling “ripped off” and limited in their ability to choose a meal plan that works well for them.
All first-year students living on campus are required to purchase a Block B meal plan, which costs $2,025 per semester for 250 meals and $460 per interim for 60 meals. At the end of the year, students often find themselves with a surplus of meals they haven’t used.
“I just wish we could pick smaller meal plans, because I don’t need all the meals I have,” said Anna Edwards, a freshman biology major. “But I’m forced to pay for it with money I don’t really have in the first place.”
But Bethel is not the only university forcing first-year students to buy larger meal plans, according to Tammi Mild, Dining Services Administrator.
“Statistics show that students who live together also eat together and tend to have a greater longevity at school,” Mild said. “We’re concerned about their experience here at Bethel, and we believe that the fellowship that takes place at the dinner table encourages those relationships that are critical to a positive college experience.”
Besides a surplus of meals for freshmen, another large concern for all students is the prices of block meal plans. Between spring 2017 and fall 2017, meal plan prices increased about 2 percent.
Wages for student workers in Dining Services increased from $10 to $11, and some suspected the two changes were related. However, Mild and Schuchardt both said that is not the case.
“The market drives the wage up,” Schuchardt said. “Students were going off campus to work and we couldn’t retain student workers. In order to be competitive in the marketplace, we needed to adjust our starting wage.”
Students may see a 2-4 percent increase in the cost of meal plans from year to year, but this isn’t related to student worker wages, according to Mild. Bethel adjusts pricing based on the price of food and ingredients from vendors and competition from other institutions, as well as the overall cost of living, eating, and studying at Bethel.
As for having a plethora of unused meals at the end of the year, Schuchardt suggests students take a mindful approach.
“You just have to understand and manage your meals,” Schuchardt says. “It’s part of growing up.”