Let Duke seniors opt out of their meal plans

Let Duke seniors opt out of their meal plans

October 9, 2022
Signatures: 28Next Goal: 50
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Why this petition matters

Started by Sihan Wang

The Status Quo:

  1. Currently, all Duke students who choose to live on campus are required to buy a dining plan. Duke seniors are allowed to opt-out of on-campus housing and will be required to purchase a smaller meal plan. On-campus seniors are required to choose from Plan A up to Plan E. No Duke student, including seniors can completely opt out of a meal plan.
  2. At the beginning of the Fall semester, meal plan values increased by 4.3% while dining item pricings have increased by up to 20% (see Duke Chronicle article). Students were not able to learn about this price change before selecting and finalizing their meal plans. Before Fall 2022, Plan A is supposed to cover 2 meals and a snack per day, which is no longer feasible for most who are on Plan A now.
  3. Healthier eating options tend to be more expensive (e.g., Sprout vs. Panda Express). Healthy foods such as salads and fruits are overpriced compared to grocery store options. For instance, a cup of berries from Pitchforks is $6+ pre-tax. For many West Campus residents, fruits are a luxury even though it’s a rather important component of a healthy diet.
  4. Duke is not very flexible with changing the financial aid package students are admitted with. “Just choose a bigger meal plan” is not a viable solution for every student. Similarly, not everyone can afford to spend additional money on top of their food points to maintain a healthy diet. If a meal plan is supposed to guarantee that students feed themselves, it should guarantee the accessibility of healthy diets without additional spending.

The Proposal

  1. Allow all Duke Class of 2023 seniors to opt out of their meal plans entirely for the coming semester, regardless of on- or off-campus housing.
  2. Refund any leftover food points from the Fall 2022 meal plan.

Why This Would be Feasible & Beneficial

This proposal may bring about financial, health, and other practical benefits.

  1. Many seniors already live off-campus or in suite-style dorms in Hollows. Other dorms also have common kitchens that are not usually crowded, making cooking a feasible option for those who might choose to. Being able to shop for groceries and cook allows those who are aiming to eat healthily or maintain a particular diet to do so with the same or possibly even lower cost than the current meal plan. Many seniors also choose to have a light course load in the last semester, which makes cooking more possible than in their previous years at Duke.
  2. Learning to cook for oneself while balancing other tasks is good practice for seniors who are about to graduate and start adulting on their own.
  3. The proposal is all about choice, if no meal plan doesn’t feel feasible to some, they simply don’t have to opt-out. If someone who has opted out still wants to purchase something on campus, they also can.

Additional Demands

If Duke Dining believes the lack of affordable healthy diets within the meal plan is not an issue, it is important to promote transparency of information to help students who wish to pursue healthy diets. Thus, it's important to:

  1. Formally investigate students’ spending/ eating patterns to make evidence-based claims
  2. Include publicly available nutritional information for most dining items sold
  3. The Student Affairs website includes general resources about how to balance a diet, but there is no information that puts this knowledge into context. What might a day of balanced eating at Duke look like? What are some sample meal choices that actually fit the criteria for balanced eating? What are some sample meal choices for Plan A, Plan B, to Plan E? If healthy dining is meant to be feasible, examples should be available to help students make their choices.
Support now
Signatures: 28Next Goal: 50
Support now