Dollars for keeps: roll ‘em up!

A new option in McGill’s meal plan system hopes to accommodate more students

Ask any student who has lived in a McGill residence with a  mandatory meal plan what the last few days of eating in the dining hall is like, and you’ll get the following response: it’s absolute mayhem. Everyone scrambles to use what is left of their meal plans, with people gorging down the maximum amount of food they can take and buying whatever dry food items are being sold.

However, with the introduction of the new ollover plan this year, it seems this rite-of-passage for McGill students living in rez is over. Beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year, unspent money in one’s meal plan account will be transferred over to a rollover plan that will only expire the following academic year. The only downside is that this money will be subject to federal and provincial sales taxes. Also, a minimum of 50$ is needed in your current account for this transfer to occur.

Such a rollover plan can be beneficial to incoming students, as it eliminates the need to eat excessively in an attempt to finish the money in their meal plan accounts. It’s often difficult to accurately predict how much you should spend for your meals such that you don’t run out of money or are left with too much at the end of the school year. Oftentimes, students worry about overspending at the beginning of the fall semester. Hence, they are cautious, always eating only what they need and choosing the cheaper food items. However, come winter, as a result of weekends spent away from the city or meals taken outside, they soon realize that they are left with too much money on their account. In contrast to the scrimping of fall, they begin to purchase the most expensive food items, having full-course meals  comprising a starter, entree, and a dessert. Needless to say, this can have negative health effects. By getting rid of this effect, the rollover plan would make it easier for students to ensure that they keep to a healthy diet and perhaps make them less susceptible to the freshman 15.

On the other hand, if students spend less in the McGill dining halls due to this new plan,  the quality and variety of food provided to students may be affected. In order to compensate for a possible reduction in spending by students, would the McGill dining halls compromise on the variety of food items they provide? Would the McGill catering staff then still be able to satisfy the varying diet preferences of students?
Ultimately, the McGill Food and Dining Services introduced the rollover plan with the intention of making the mandatory meal plan more accommodating to the diverse dietary needs of students. With this additional alternative, students are able to enjoy more flexibility in their dietary choices, as they are not bound by the quota of finishing their meal plan. For instance, students with smaller appetites can choose to eat less, without worrying about not finishing their meal plan. Also, students have the option of dining out more often. All in all, what is most important really depends on how students harness this extra flexibility to ensure their nutritional needs and dietary preferences are met.