2013 C&U Census: Adding gluten-free items tops college operators' to-do list

Meal plans participation, trayless dining and local sourcing also included in the 2013 College and University Census.

Meal Plans’ Popularity Static
For those operations that offer a meal plan, 49% of students take advantage of those programs. Students in the Northeast (64%) and at colleges with fewer than 2,000 students (78%) were significantly more likely than other colleges to have students on a meal plan. Universities in the West (26%) and with more than 30,000 students (25%) were the least likely to have students on a meal plan. Student participation in meal plans has remained flat the past two years. The same percent of students—49%—purchased meal plans in the 2011-2012 school year as in the 2012-2013 school year.

Meal plan offerings have not been altered much in the past two years. The majority of operators—86%—haven’t made changes to their meal plans. For those operators who have made a change to their meal plans in the past two years, most added declining balance options. Only one college bucked this trend, by dropped declining balance in favor of a meals-per-week plan. The most frequent change was switching from a meals-per-week plan to a combination of meals per week and declining balance. Six percent of respondents made this change. Four percent of operators moved from a combination of meals per week and declining balance to declining balance only, and 3% switched from a meals-per-week plan to a declining balance plan.  

Going Trayless

  • Our survey included respondents from 101 colleges across the nation, with varying sizes of enrollment and annual food and beverage purchases.
  • 67% are self-operated, 29% are contract managed and 4% are partly self-operated and partly contact managed.
  • The mean enrollment in the fall of 2012 was 15,603 students, up slightly from 2011’s enrollment of 15,470.
  • 48% of students are residential and 52% are commuter. Colleges in the Northeast—at 66%— and those with fewer than 2,000 students—at 73%— are significantly more likely than other regions and larger colleges to have a higher percentage of residential students.

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