Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Meal plans offer variety of options

From food courts and markets to multiple dining halls, students have a variety of options on campus when lunchtime comes at The University of Alabama. However, while the University offers multiple meal plans to suit the specific needs of students, freshmen are required to purchase the most expensive and expansive plan.

All freshmen are required to purchase the All-Access Unlimited meal plan for $1,578 per semester from Bama Dining. Although the numbers are not yet in for this semester, 3,662 students purchased an All-Access Unlimited meal plan last fall.

When a freshman joins a greek organization, his or her meal plan automatically changes to the Greek 55 meal plan, and his or her account is credited for the extra amount. Kelly McIntyre, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, said she used less than half of her required greek meal plan her freshman year and has never purchased a meal plan since.

“We would realize we had 45 meals left and there were three days left in the semester, so we would try to use as many as possible,” McIntyre said.

On the other hand, Caitlyn Hearn, a senior majoring in communicative disorders, said she used about 95 to 100 percent of her meal plan her freshman year. Hearn said she did not remember which meal plan she had, but that it was not the greatest or the least number of meals. She said she thinks it is a good idea that freshmen are required to buy unlimited meal plans.

“I did have friends who used all of them. It’s easier and healthier,” Hearn said. “I actually wish I was still on one instead of eating out.”

It was not the quality of the food that discouraged McIntyre from eating at the dining halls, she said, but a lesser social opportunity.

“I wanted to hang out with my sisters at the house, and it was a better way to meet people than going to the dining hall,” McIntyre said.

Nonetheless, the social environment McIntyre felt was lacking at the dining halls is the exact reason the University requires the meal plan for all freshmen.

“Studies consistently show that students with strong college social connections and engagement are more likely to complete their educational goals,” Kristina Hopton-Jones, director of University Dining Services said. “Often times, feeling a part of UA and building a sense of community starts in the residence halls and dining facilities. The housing and meal plan requirement is for entering freshman and is designed to encourage a smooth transition as students adjust to living away from home. The All–Access meal plan allows students maximum flexibility as they navigate through their first year at college.”

The University is not alone in requiring freshmen to purchase a meal plan, Hopton-Jones said.

“Many college campuses across the U.S. do have a meal plan requirement of some sort, whether it is a residential meal plan or a declining balance account similar to Dining Dollars. Of the 14 SEC schools, nine have a meal plan requirement,” Hopton-Jones said.

Hopton-Jones said that because of the different options offered at the University, students often continue to purchase meal plans after their freshman year.

“Many upperclassmen do purchase a meal plan, because of the convenience and variety. With most upperclassmen living off campus, a meal plan is not required,” Hopton-Jones said.

Last fall 2,578 upperclassmen purchased a meal plan, and they still have until Sept. 1 to purchase a plan if they so choose.

With four meal plan locations – Burke, Lakeside, Fresh Food Co. and Bryant – there are eating options all over campus for whenever hunger strikes. There were 2,296 swipes at Fresh Food Co., 1,782 at Burke and 3,187 at Lakeside Thursday. Despite the higher swipe number for Lakeside Dining, Hopton-Jones said determining which dining hall is most popular is a difficult task because each attracts participation from different campus population segments at different times of the day and has different seating capacities and different hours of operation.

Beyond the dining halls, students can use their meal plans for grab-and-go options at the four convenience store locations, including the popular Julia’s Market in Tutwiler Hall. One meal plan swipe is good for one Fresh2go Entrée with a fountain drink or two Fresh2go sides and a fountain drink.

For students looking for a more gourmet option, Bryant Sports Grill serves upscale lunch and dinner buffets, as well as made-to-order entrees. Designed to serve the high calorie and nutritional needs of student athletes, the dining hall is open to all students with a meal plan swipe for lunch. Non-athlete students can also eat dinner at Bryant, but have to pay an additional $9.95 on top of the swipe.


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