How Much is Your Meal Plan Really Worth?

It doesn’t take a math genius to see that students on the all points plan are paying a hell of a lot more than $1400 for 1400 points. It does however take a little bit of numbers crunching to see exactly how much each meal plan is really worth. Therefore I present the product of a few minutes of labor calculating the worth of every meal plan Aramark and ResLife have to offer.

Before I show the numbers, I have to explain my methodology. Firstly, I assumed that there were 17 weeks in a semester and 119 days. I did not include vacations. Secondly, when calculating the value of meals, I assumed that everyone eats at Sherman (the most expensive dining institution at Brandeis); when possible they eat there for dinner ($10.05 a meal) first and then lunch ($7.95 a meal). I did not include Kosher dining in these numbers. All numbers are calculated per semester.

Want to see the worth of your meal plan? Numbers after the jump!

All Points Plan

Number of ‘Points’: 1400

Cost: $2,380

Cost Per Point: $1.7

Cost Per Day: $20

21 Meal Plan

Number of ‘Points’: 2808.4

Cost: $2,453

Cost Per Point: $0.87

Cost Per Day: $20.06

Combo (10 meals a week, 525 points a semester)

Number of ‘Points’: 2126.4

Cost: $2,380

Cost Per Point: $1.12

Cost Per Day: $20

Flex (100 meals and 650 points a semester)

Number of ‘Points’: 1655

Cost: $2,405

Cost Per Point: $1.45

Cost Per Day: $20.20

Village Plan (80 meals and 200 points per semester)

Number of ‘Points’: 1004

Cost: $1,707

Cost Per Point: $1.70

Cost Per Day: $14.30

14 Meal Plan

Number of ‘Points’: 2142

Cost: $2,273

Cost Per Point: $1.06

Cost Per Day: $19.10

Ultimately, professors and administrators who get their afternoon lunch at Usdan or Einsteins are paying just a fraction of what students who are forced to buy meal plans are getting. A meal (a sandwich) that theoretically costs just $4.09 at Usdan, actually costs me $6.95 (on All Points). The 21 Meals Per Week plan is theoretically the best deal; however it assumes that you will be eating at Sherman 3 times a day every day; and we can all agree that that is not ‘the best deal.’

I understand why students on campus are required to purchase meal plans. The University, and ResLife are concerned for the health of the student body and want to make sure that people aren’t just living out of their rooms. However, I cannot understand why we are forced to pay $20 a day for a plan that allows us to spend just 12 points a day. Aren’t they supposed to be worth the same?

So tell me, what would you spend $20 a day on if you weren’t forced to buy a meal plan?


6 thoughts on “How Much is Your Meal Plan Really Worth?”

  1. The point of the extra money we spend is because Brandeis is not the most profitable place to run lots of competing food service locations. They charge the extra for the meal plan to make up for that.

    In theory, Brandeis could cover the extra money (and may be covering part of it already, I’m not sure) rather than tacking it on to the meal plans, but that would involve cheaper meal plans at the cost of higher tuition, and would also charge more money for people living off campus, who aren’t benefitting as much from the added convenience of on campus dining.

    That said, the extreme lack of flexibility is extremely annoying. The point of meals from Aramark’s standpoint is to insure that we’re buying food made here, which is the most profitable for them. Why not just make the other food more expensive, or raise the fee and make the more profitable food cheaper? Currently their policy highly selects against having breakfast each morning, which has been scientifically shown time and time again to be the healthiest time to eat. Aramark’s shift to more equal lunch and meals is good, since it’s equally feasible (and in many countries, the norm) to eat a larger lunch than dinner.

    The hours also annoy me. Arramark has no financial incentive to run at hours that non-on campus students won’t be here (i.e. weekends and holidays), but as long as we’re paying extra to compensate for this fact, they should provide the versatility we’re paying for. My biggest complaint is Einstein’s not being open Sunday morning, since Einstein’s is primarily breakfast food anyway.

  2. One thought, Lev- the reason that meal plans cost more than the food is probably because of labor costs. Our meal plans are probably what covers most of the labor costs, since I’d say a lot of food in Usdan is cheaper than the equivalent in a restaurant/fast food place in ‘the real world’. Thus, professors/off campus students who buy a lunch in Usdan are paying much less towards the cost of labor for Aramark.

    That doesn’t change that I agree that meal plans are a rip off, but in exchange for paying so much, we are able to get food on campus from 7am to 2am on most weekdays. Is it really profitable for Aramark to keep the CStore and Einstein’s open until 2am five days a week? Probably not.

  3. I used Sherman, because I was trying to figure out the most expensive way to spend your meal plan. A meal for dinner at Sherman is worth $10.05, whereas a meal for dinner at Usdan is worth $8.00. For every meal plan with meals, Usdan is a far worse value (unless quality matters to you). For instance, the Flex plan eating only at Usdan (for dinner) would be worth 1,450 as opposed to 1,655 at Sherman.

    I could crunch the numbers for Usdan, but ultimately I’m trying to give Aramark/the Administration the benefit of the doubt.

  4. I am not mathematically inclined. I am also too lazy to figure out how to calculate these things.
    That being said, could you just give a brief overview of what the numbers come out to for someone who DOESN’T eat only at Sherman? i.e. what are the numbers like for Usdan meal equivalencies? (better value per point or what?)

  5. Hmm, and from the perspective of a campus organizer, I think that the way that our food is prepared might have a connection with how students engage with issues.

    So, we have this idea that our predecessors in the 60s were pretty politically active, and now there is some disillusionment (reasoned or otherwise). And in between these two times we have the change from a Brandeis-run food service (replete with locally-grown food and [here, I’m extending] the accessibility of those that make decisions regarding the food consumed) to the faceless, distant, un-accessible, corporate, for-profit food service that we have today.

    We graze between Tier 2 A, B, and C or Corporate Fast Food™ at least 3 times a day without a sense of participation, ownership, or community in the process by which those choices were presented. Perhaps this does not account for the change between eras, but I doubt that the current experience of dining lends itself to student-empowerment.

  6. So, I live off campus with 4 others and we generally purchase and cook our food together. We each then pay about $5/day on healthy, nutritious, delicious food. To say the least, the food at Brandeis was a major part of my consideration to move off campus…

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