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Dining Services cuts transfer portions, alterted selections

October 11, 2012

UW-River Falls Dining Services has responded to a number of new challenges this year by getting creative with some of their food options.

One of these challenges is the number of students on meal plans. According to Sodexo General Manager Sheryl Harrison, there are 150 fewer students on meal plans this year as to last year.  There are currently close to 2,800 students on meal plans.

Gregg Heinselman, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said that enrollment at UWRF has decreased by approximately 6 percent from last fall “so the meal plan numbers look good considering the enrollment adjustment.”

Dining Services has used some different tactics in trying to attract more students to purchase meal plans. One of these methods is to offer complimentary meals to students who are on official admissions tours. Another method that Harrison mentioned involved sending postcards to students who live off campus.

Sodexo Marketing Specialist Amy Aschenbrener said that even though the overall number of meal plans is down, there has been an increase meal plans purchased by certain types of students.  “We have seen an increase in voluntary meal plans purchased by off-campus (students) and upperclassmen,” Aschenbrener said.

Another emphasis for Dining Services has been an effort to offer more low-cost options for students’ tight budgets. The St. Croix Grill, located next to Riverside Commons in the University Center, is now offering a value menu with nine choices priced at $0.99 each. These inexpensive options include hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and beef sliders. Another retail location in the University Center, Sub Connection, will soon have a daily sub sandwich available for $5.

Even though Dining Services has increased their number of inexpensive food choices, there are some students who do not take advantage of these new options.  UWRF senior Seamus Connaughton said that “living off-campus, it’s cheaper to buy my own food.”

UWRF senior Gregg Roemhildt, another off-campus student, said that he has a 60-block meal which allows him to eat 60 meals throughout the semester. Roemhildt said that while he thinks the food has been a little better, he hasn’t liked all of the changes.

“I was pretty impressed last year when there were three sides and a pop,” Roemhildt said referring to the Pete’s Creek retail location in the UC. “It feels like they have more conservative portions for sides this year.”  Pete’s Creek still offers two sides, but soda counts as a side this year. Students can still get water and two sides.

Harrison said that it can be challenging to balance all of the factors associated with providing food to students.

“The cost of providing expanded options for students with restrictions to their diets often comes at an increased cost, so we have had to find ways to absorb those costs elsewhere in the operation, while maintaining or increasing the value of a meal plan for students,” said Harrison.

One way to help balance those things would be to increase the Dining Services fee. Heinselman said that the fee was raised by 3 percent which is equal to the rise in Consumer Price Index for consumable goods. Aschenbrener said that increasing the fee would allow for an expanded menu and more variety.

Dining Services’ fall semester survey will soon be available for students, faculty, and staff. The survey will be available starting Oct. 22.