New options for meal plans coming fall 2013

Stephanie Mason/Staff Writer

In an attempt to better tend to the needs of students, the University’s Dining Services will be making changes and additions to its options for meal plans.

“Our goal is to try and meet the students’ needs,” said Patricia Williams, marketing manager for Panther Dining Services.


(Alfonso Yec/FIUSM)

According to Williams, the most popular meal plan among students is called the VIP 5 while the VIP 7 is a close second.  Unknown to many students, Williams stated that VIP actually stands for “Very Important Panther.”

Currently, the VIP 5 allows students unlimited access to the Fresh Foods cafeteria Monday through Friday — hence the “5” —  along with 300 dining dollars, or Panther Bucks, to spend on meals at other retail locations on campus.  The VIP 7 entails unlimited access to the Fresh Foods cafeteria seven days a week as well as 100 Panther bucks to spend.

Williams said that the Dining Services Office periodically does research including surveys via email asking students how the office can better meal plans and the overall dining experience.

Through these surveys, Williams said what she has seen as a big concern from students is more flexibility.  In order to accommodate this desire, Panther Dining Services will be changing the VIP 5 meal plan to include Saturday and Sunday, allowing the student to choose which five days of the week are unlimited.  This meal plan will come into effect starting fall 2013.

Jasmine Chaney, freshman in marketing, and Chaz Dunn, freshman studying art, both live on campus and currently have meal plans; Chaney has the VIP 5 and Dunn has the VIP 7.  After hearing about the new VIP 5, Dunn said it will be a lot more convenient and Chaney said she wishes that was the way it had been for her as a freshman.

Dunn agreed with Chaney’s opinion that currently, the meal plan is a bit inconvenient as far as hours and being able to eat at the other dining locations.

Chaney said she does not have a car so it is annoying that the hours the restaurants are open on campus are so short.

Chaney said that the hours of operation for many restaurants on campus are annoying because they’re so short and she does not have a car.

“The hours are horrible for Fresh,” Chaney said. “The school doesn’t cater to people who live on campus, it’s more of commuter students that they cater to.”

Chaney and Dunn also expressed that they feel there are not enough Panther Bucks given with the meal plan.

Both students said they would recommend the meal plan to other students, as it has been very helpful to have at times.

Graduate student in public administration, Randall Melendez, lives off campus and does not have a meal plan. However, Melendez said he eats in the Fresh Foods cafeteria about once a day.

Melendez stated that the primary reason he eats in Fresh Foods is because it is relatively cheap and it is buffet style.

“You get what you pay for,” said Melendez.

Melendez said the meal plans are good for students who live on campus that either cannot cook or are too lazy.

Melendez also voiced a concern about the hours of Dining Services locations for students living on campus.  Melendez said that when he came to the University during spring break, all of the dining locations were closed.

“I was concerned about how the students eat,” said Melendez. “If there’s nothing open and not everyone goes away for vacation or goes away for a holiday.”

Williams also wants students to know that the meal plans are not just for students who live on campus.  She said that any student should have a meal plan because it not only saves money and time, but it allows students to be part of the college experience.

Williams said students can “treat it like your own personal refrigerator,” whether using the meal plan for a full meal, eating some yogurt before class or grabbing a late-night slice of pizza.

Aside from the VIP 5 and VIP 7, there are also several other options including a new lower-priced plan as well.  Students can sign up for a meal plan at