Posted at 4 p.m. Nov. 21, 2016

Meal plan requirement not such a bad thing

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An outside view:

Jacob Menéndez, Sodexo’s general manager, said that Sodexo has been providing food services for LCCC for more than 30 years.

Jacob Hamel

Residence Hall students at Laramie County Community College are required to buy a meal plan as part of living on campus. However, this is not necessarily the fault of LCCC’s food vendor, Sodexo. This is simply a standard of college residential living.

When I started living on campus, I hated the idea of paying for a meal plan I didn’t use. After some research about Sodexo, I’ve started to realize it may not be too bad of a deal and that I should start using the food service to its full potential.

According to Sodexo’s general manager, Jacob Menéndez, Residence Hall students are not required to purchase a meal plan as part of Sodexo’s contract with the college.

Jacob Commentary

“It’s not just this campus,” Menéndez said. “Even when I was in college, freshmen and sophomores often times are required to have it (a meal plan).”

“Every college that I’ve been involved with, it’s simply a requirement for freshmen students,” Menéndez said. “When I was in college, even though I didn’t eat there very much, I was required to buy it (a meal plan) as well. So I think that’s simply a standard throughout schools with food programs and residence halls.”

I was unable to find exactly how long Sodexo has been involved with LCCC, as Vice President of Administration and Finance Rick Johnson said, “As far as I know, Sodexo first arrived on campus in July of 2009.” However, Menéndez said he thought Sodexo was linked with LCCC since 1985. Either way, Menéndez has only been working with Sodexo at LCCC for about a year, so he had nothing to do with the meal plan requirement. Nonetheless, he does believe there is good reasoning behind it.

“The food program needs a basis of revenue so we can buy the food to employ my people to cook the food,” Menéndez said. “That could be a good reasoning behind it (the requirement). It’s certainly nothing to just do with Sodexo.”

“When a food service company comes on to campus, they typically require that meal plans be a necessary contractual arrangement,” Johnson said. “This is part of their financial sustainability model. Without such a requirement, it is virtually impossible to successfully solicit a company to provide food services.”

It seems that LCCC used this meal plan requirement in the contract with Sodexo as a bit of an incentive for Sodexo to be involved with the college.

According to the administrative assistant of residential living and learning, Karen Wentroble, there are currently 256 students living in the Residence Halls of the possible 276 that could be accommodated.

As much as it pains me to say this, let’s do some math.

“The food industry is a headache overall,” Menéndez said. “Sometimes an entity doesn’t want to necessarily control a certain aspect of what they have at their school. This school is geared toward education; their first priority is not food, but obviously, we need to have food here. So what they do is hire in a third party to manage it.”

Menéndez said the college is happy with what Sodexo does for the most part, and that is why they have such lengthy contracts.

“We do go over the contract every single year and tweak it.” But Menéndez said the contract is set until the early 2020s.

If you’re a resident student, and have the same opinion of the meal plan system as I used to, it’s worth reconsidering. It wasn’t until I started doing research for this very story that I realized how good of a deal it can be. I decided to have lunch in the LCCC dining hall for the first time in months before my interview with Menéndez, and found out it’s essentially all-you-can-eat for around $6.50.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely be upset when you find out you’re required to buy something you didn’t originally plan on buying in the first place. My recent experience with Sodexo for the most part has been great. Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of all the food they serve, but it’s not like when you try something you don’t like, you’re just throwing money away. It’s basically a buffet, so you’re free to get up and try something else.

Despite how upset one may be about being forced into buying a meal plan, I think it helps Sodexo provide more to the customers, and it’s all-in-all a fairly good deal in the long run.


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