GW cites good and bad `points’ of new meal plans

National averages show that Americans eat too much. But with two weeks left in the semester some GW students wonder if they can possibly eat enough.

I buy a lot of cameras and stuff from Provisions, freshman Chrystal Puleo said. I’m going to be buying my boyfriend food from now to the end of the year.

Puleo is one of many students left with an excessive amount of meal points as the school year draws to a close. The declining balance meal plan system is new to GW.

This is the first year that the University has implemented the declining balance `flex’ point system, said Victor Younger, senior director for Dining Services. I think that students have done a good job managing their dollars.

Previously, students were restricted to eating certain meals at certain times of the day.

(This year) you can buy what you want to, it’s just like having a charge card, Younger said.

Under the new system, freshmen, sophomores and juniors living in campus housing are required to purchase a meal plan. Freshmen must choose a meal plan worth $1,350 or $1,600 a semester. Sophomores can choose less expensive plans at $1,200 or $950 a semester. Juniors and seniors can choose any of the plans, which include $500 and $250 options.

Within each plan the dollar amounts represent `meal points’ that are then spent on a tax-exempt declining balance, which means students subtract from their total amount of meal points with each food purchase. While point totals carry over from the fall to spring semesters, remaining dollars are forfeited by the end of the year.

We’re really trying to do a lot of different things to encourage students to spend their points, Younger said. He cited the Visiting Chef Series at J Street and an expanded grocery selection as two new options.

The University also offers ways for students to spend their extra points, such as the buy-in-bulk Points Blowout held at Provisions last week.

Despite these outlets some students said they feel forced to spend large amounts of points.

I have 600 points left, said sophomore Yulie Kim, who gets 950 points each semester. I’m going to have to buy things (at Provisions Market) and the prices are twice what you would normally pay.

I think it’s unfair that they make you choose a plan, she said. I don’t really eat that much here.

Freshman Megan Adamson-Jackes found herself in a similar situation. She returned to school for the spring semester with over 2,000 meal points with the total carried over from the fall. Eventually, she switched meal plans from the $1,600 to the $1,350 for the second semester, which she still found excessive for her needs.

I bought food for the sophomores I knew that didn’t have meal plans all the time, she said.

Next year, she said she is not planning on purchasing a meal plan.

I’m not living on campus and the food here is not that good, she said.

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