Meal Plans’ Popularity Static
Operators not making changes to meal plan offerings.
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.
Colleges use trayless dining for sustainability initiatives, but not all students are happy with the program.