Sodexo, students react to meal plan confusion


Franciscan University students with any of the three new block meal plans began their fall semester by experiencing some technical difficulties. Students complained that it was unclear how many weekly meal exchanges they were allowed, and that the computers were tracking meal exchanges inaccurately.

Charles Pobee-Mensah, the unit marketing coordinator of Sodexo on campus, explained that the problems are largely related to C-board, the campus’ card-reading system. Last semester the three new block plans were available only as trial plans for a certain number of students. During the trial, C-board only subtracted cafeteria meals from the students’ overall number of meals. Meal exchanges were not being deducted at all, so students actually never ran out of meal exchanges.

Pobee-Mensah said that Sodexo only recently became aware of this problem. “So we had to rework the whole system,” he explained.

“The way we originally wanted it to work,” Pobee-Mensah continued, “is that we wanted the students to have five meal exchanges a week: three on the weekdays and two on the weekends. It’s easier for C-board to regulate that with weekly meal plans, like the 19-plus plan. But with the block plan, you don’t have a certain number of meals per week. C-board must have misinterpreted this when we talked to them about the block plans.”

Sodexo recently sent out an email to all students with the block plan, clarifying that students with the plan could receive five meal exchanges per week: three during the weekdays, and two on the weekends. The email also stated that the number of meal exchanges per semester would be deducted from the total number of meals per plan.

Pobee-Mensah clarified that this does not mean the students are receiving fewer meals than they were before the email was sent. It simply means that the students now have, as he put it, “two piles of meals”: one pile for cafeteria meals, which are not tracked weekly but by total number allotted per semester; and one pile for meal exchanges, which are tracked weekly.

Any meal exchanges that are not used during a week will transfer into the remainder of the semester as cafeteria meals.

Though students with block plans have various feelings about the technical difficulties, most of them share a sense of confusion.

“I’m just frustrated because five meal exchanges aren’t all that many and Sodexo is limiting the way we can use them,” said sophomore Marci Houle. “The trial block plan for Louis-Liz last semester functioned a lot more smoothly than this year’s plan. There was a better balance of meals to points and the meal exchanges didn’t glitch like they do now.”

Senior Julie Fleming said, “I got really mad because I go home on the weekends for my job, and I don’t have time to sit down at the caf and eat. I’m not here on the weekends, so it’s a waste of money to lose those meal exchanges. I chose this meal plan because it was so flexible, and I feel like these issues should have been sorted out beforehand.”

Marie Beinke added, “Since we’re seniors and we live in the dorms, we have to have a meal plan. So they should make it more flexible.”

Not all of the students with block plans, however, are frustrated, and not all of them suffered many difficulties. “I have the new block plan, and I never had a problem with the meal exchanges,” said junior Ryan Nash.

Sophomore Nick Freres agreed, “I actually didn’t even know there was any confusion, until I got the email. I like the plan because I get more points.” He added, “But I thought I was getting 14 meals a week when I’m actually only getting 12-13. I’m a little miffed about that, but it’s no big deal.”

Junior Kathleen Monin is simply concerned about keeping track of her meals. “I’m just worried I’m going to walk up to the pub to swipe my card, and then the nice lady and I might have a super awkward moment where I have to shell out $12 points or worse, real money.”

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