By Rachel Jacobi, News Editor
On August 22, 2019 Yeshiva University disclosed a new Dining Club model that would be put into effect on both campuses, stating:
“The Yeshiva University Undergraduate Dining Club is designed to give students the greatest degree of convenience, accessibility, and money management on campus. For the 2019-2020 academic year, the Dining Club plan will be changed in response to student feedback to ensure food pricing is easier to understand and to better help students manage their budgets.”
Prior to this semester, students living in University housing had two meal plan options: a standard $3,500 meal plan, split into $1,750 of spending money per semester, or a reduced $3,000 plan of $1,500 per semester, available only to those who had lived on campus for at least one year.
While these two meal plan options are still available in the new model, both plans– the standard and reduced– now most significantly include a membership fee of $675. All remaining funds are divided between “Dining Dollars,” which is spending money in the Yeshiva University Dining Halls, and “Flex Dollars,” which can be spent at restaurants. The logic behind this Dining Club model, according to an email sent out to the student body, is to enable the price of food items purchased to reflect the actual cost of the food. According to YU Operations, “This overhead [the $675 membership fee] was included in the food pricing, resulting in higher costs to students.”
Essentially, what this model aims to accomplish is a money shift. Instead of paying the $675 membership fee incrementally with every Dining Hall purchase, those funds are now taken upfront. In return, with the exclusion of certain items, members receive a 35%-40% discount on their Dining Hall purchases, as to “allow students the same purchasing power as last year for equivalent meal plans.”
However, many students on campus are confused by the switch and are having difficulty adjusting to the new model. “It came as a surprise, without a lot of information. It would be nice to know how this new plan is actually beneficial to us,” one student said.
Mili Chizhik, a SCW sophomore, has started a petition that she plans to send to the YU administration in opposition of the new meal plan. She outlines the new budgeting challenges that she and other students now have to contend with as a result of the new Dining Club model. “I’m an in-towner so I’m really lucky not to have to spend my caf card money on [Shabbat tickets] every Shabbat, but I still need to plan out each and every day,” Chizhik said. “Will I be eating lunch? Is it worth it? Should I just wait and spend the money on dinner? Most people I know have already spent $200 in three weeks. On the previous meal plan, that wasn’t a problem, but now $200 is easily a quarter or a fifth of the entire semester’s money.”
Some out-of-town students explain their concern of eventual food insecurity. One student explained, that “As an out-of-towner, it is so difficult to currently manage eating twice a day at the caf, occasionally staying in for Shabbat and paying for the meals. I am already stressed out about what will happen when I run out of money halfway throughout the semester. I feel like the school did us wrong on this one; I would have actually preferred the old meal plan since I actually knew what was going on and I was able to calculate accordingly.” Another student said, “At this rate, I will run out of money one or two months before the end of this semester. I’m an out-of-towner, so I rely on the meal plan, but I’m not even eating breakfast anymore. I can’t afford it.”
Students can expect some consistencies between the old and new meal plan models. Students that live in University housing are still mandated to purchase a meal plan. Meal plan money will continue to rollover from the fall semester to the spring semester, while unspent meal plan funds will remain non-refundable after the spring semester. Furthermore, while restaurants and vending machines do not offer the discounts that Dining Hall purchases yield, the caf card tax exemption, which amounts to approximately 9%, is still in effect.
Non-Dining Club members, like the commuter students, will continue to purchase items at the non-discounted prices.
Photo: 215 Lexington Cafeteria