Starting this fall, the University of Wisconsin will be implementing a new meal plan for students. The new plan has been a subject of controversy since the announcement that the pay-as-you-go system UW was known for would be changing.

Through the end of the 2017-18 school year, there was no official “meal plan” for UW students. Students were able to swipe their Wiscards inside any on-campus facilities offering food options and pay for each item à la carte style. There was no minimum required amount of money to be put on Wiscards.

Peter Testory, UW director of dining and culinary services, said there are many initiatives coming to campus this fall regarding meal options.

UPDATE: In light of meal plan protests, UW announces shared governance committee of students, University HousingThe University of Wisconsin Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration announced Wednesday the Associated Students of Madison and the Division Read…

This coming academic year we have a few exciting changes that we will be implementing for our students, and are still working on many more new initiatives to either launch in the fall or throughout the academic year,” Testory said.

Incoming students at the university will now be required to choose a meal plan. There are currently three tiers of meal plans available, based on the eating habits of students.

The lowest tiered plan is a $1400 deposit at the beginning of the semester, about 9 meals per week, while the highest option tops out at $3100, or 20 meals per week. The middle tiered option is a $2100 deposit, averaging around 13 meals per week.  Food will still be purchased à la carte style.

Additionally, higher-tiered plans come with incentives such as free Bean and Creamery beverages and bonus dining dollars, according to UW’s meal plan information.

The deposit will be a part of a student’s housing bill, and will be designated to a specific “resident food account.” Students will be unable to transfer funds from the food account to use for other on-campus resources such as laundry.

Before the plan, there were no specific accounts on a Wiscard, just one general account for the placement of all of a student’s funds. Students living in university housing will continue to receive a 30 percent discount on prepared food and a 20 percent discount on pre-packaged food.

If money is leftover on a student’s Wiscard at the end of the semester, it will roll over to the next one, according to a statement on UW’s webpage. The original plan stated that any unused funds would be absorbed by the university, but that has since been changed.

UPDATE: In light of meal plan protests, UW announces shared governance committee of students, University HousingThe University of Wisconsin Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration announced Wednesday the Associated Students of Madison and the Division Read…

Many students disagreed with the required $1400 deposit, citing that requiring that amount of money was inconsiderate to low-income students and students with strict diet needs due to religion, allergies or lifestyle choices, as reported by WPR.

Creators eventually made the decision to include an “opt out” option for students with religious or other dietary restrictions due to allergies.

Brendon Dybdahl, director of marketing and communications for university housing, said exemptions to the meal plan will be evaluated on a case-to-case basis.

“It all is based on whether we can safely accommodate the student’s dietary needs. When we receive a request, whether it be for religious requirements, food allergies, or specific diets, our dining staff will evaluate whether we can meet their needs,” Dybdahl said. “If we cannot, then they would be exempted.”

According to Dybdahl, there have been only two requests so far to opt-out of the new meal plan, both of which received approval from the university.

 

Ulrich Rosenhagen, professor of religious studies at UW, said that Testory’s unit is working to fix the flaws in the plan by being more accommodating to kosher students through offering more halal options.

“I think the new [opt-out] option is great. It makes a top school like UW-Madison an interesting campus option for Jewish students who follow kashrut laws,” Rosenhagen said.

University dining to require students in residence halls to purchase minimum $1400 meal planCome fall 2018, all students living in University of Wisconsin residence halls will have to choose a meal plan with Read…

Rosenhagen was proud to see his interreligious group of students push for policy change.

According to Testory, dining services is working to remove unnecessary allergens from recipes, Halal certify all chicken breast, increase vegan and vegetarian options, focus on plant-forward menu choices, use non-GMO deli meat and test-run a smoothie station in Gordon’s dining and event center.

“It is great to see that students can have an immediate impact on university policy if they have good arguments on their side and organize well,” Rosenhagen said.

While the dining plan will still be changing, dining services hopes that students will be able to embrace the changes and find them exciting instead of limiting.

Testory stated that the new food options were not necessarily added because of the new meal plan.

“[Changes were made] as a way to offer the highest quality of service and products to our students that we can,” Testory said.

Correction: A previous version of this post included incorrect information regarding students who are eligible to opt-out of the meal plan. The article has since been updated to clarify these errors with information from University Housing. The Badger Herald regrets these errors.