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U. of British Columbia moves to all-access meal plan

The University of British Columbia will offer a new meal plan option for students this fall, adding an all-access dining for first-year residences. The new all-access model will take effect this September, and will be a departure from UBC’s existing declining debit dining plan.

According to a report from student publication, The Udyssey, the current dining plan for residential students at UBC is a declining debit system that sees students pay a fixed price for their meal plan at the beginning of the year. The plan then enables students to purchase food at campus dining halls and other on-campus locations on a per-item basis.

The new all-access plan will remove the itemized pricing system for residential first year students and instead offer unlimited access to dining halls in an all-you-care-to-eat fashion.

The new dining plan carries a higher up-front cost at roughly $6,500. From that fee, $6,000 goes toward all-access, in-residence dining. The plan sets aside the remaining $500 as Flex Dollars, which can be used at select on-and off-campus locations.

Campus visitors not on a meal plan can pay a door rate to access the all-you-care-to-eat dining halls. The door rate varies by meal time, charging $12 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, and $19 for dinner.

University officials say the meal plan change came in response to feedback from first-year students. The university included annual benchmarking surveys and student focus groups as part of the decision.

Recurring concerns with the old plan highlighted by students were limited variety, small portion sizes, and high prices of food in first-year dining halls.

“They would tell us that they’re making choices based on price as opposed to nutrition,” said Colin Moore, director of UBC Food Services in a Udyssey statement. “They don’t believe they were getting great value out of the meal plan.”

Another change under the new meal plan is a slightly scaled back to-go meal option for students. To-go will be limited to fruit, coffee and baked goods at breakfast, and pre-ordered take-out lunches ordered online via Nutrislice.

Last year, UBC’s Okanagan campus implemented a similar all-access dining plan for its residential students with positive results. The new all-access dining plan is designed to address the key student concerns. 

“You come into the dining room and you don’t see prices. You never have to think about price,” said Moore. “It significantly improves food equity and student well-being. There’s tremendous social, environmental, and sustainability improvements.”

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