Flexibility at its Finest: New Meal Plans of 2012

Lauren Villanueva

Photo by Minh Nguyen

As of fall 2012, University of California Santa Barbara will offer a set of improved, flexible meal plan options and a new Plus Program for its students. According to UCSB’s Dining Services website, the standard meal plan options will include the new Gaucho Carte Blanche, the option that allows students an unlimited number of swipes used specifically for the Dining Commons during the designated meal times.

Jill Horst, the residential dining director for UCSB, explains that the Gaucho Carte Blanche “changes meal plans to provide more flexibility, because traditionally you get only one swipe per meal hour.” The Gaucho Platinum will allow 17 swipes per week, the Gaucho Gold 14 swipes and the Gaucho Silver 10 swipes-all at the discretion of the individual.

In addition to the option of unlimited swipes to the Dining Commons, UCSB Dining Services will also introduce the new Plus Program for the upcoming academic year. The three plans include Plan A ($900/year), Plan B ($600/year) and Plan C ($300/year), and students can add $50 increments to the plan individually if they happen to use all of their money up before the end of the school year. As a supplement to the four standard meal plans, students can, according to the Dining Services website, use their “plus dollars in designated campus dining outlets to enhance [their] residential dining experience.” A few of the campus facilities that will accept Plus Dollars in the fall include Coral Tree Café, Jamba Juice, Subway, Panda Express and Woodstock’s Pizza.

“Even though there is a lot of variety with our current options at the Dining Commons, it gets old on a daily basis,” Julia Price, a first-year environmental studies and economics double major, said. “Especially for the convenience part of the Plus Program; it’s just easier to swipe your access card because not everyone always has money on them.”

Another student, Jackson Fatherree, a first-year undeclared major, said, “I wish they [the dining commons] had it this year because we always have to time our meals.”

Flexibility is a key word with the new meal plans and programs, which will provide students with more leniency to accommodate the busy schedules of students.

“There hasn’t been the strong need or desire from the residents. However, times have changed,” Horst said. As a result, she added that, “we decided to take the necessary time to do the research, get feedback from residents, and make a plan that would work for everybody.”

Despite the excitement and welcoming attitude from many students about this Plus Program, some feel that this particular program does not quite fully meet the needs of the students. Jasmine Chavez, a second-year sociology major, admitted it is a “cool idea” and understood the convenience aspect of the Plus Program.

However, “You still have to buy the standard meal plan. The money is still coming from your pocket, but you are just paying up front and using your access card,” said Chavez.

Nonetheless, Horst feels confident in the success of this new program that will launch fall 2012.

“I think that the incoming students are going to be very pleased,” Horst firmly stated, because the new additions are “driven by the individual to choose how they use their meal plan.”