Author: Alex Zeldin
Under absolutely no circumstance is it beneficial to be on any meal plan other than D while attending Occidental (unless you are a first-year, in which case you are ineligible). Regardless of how the college tries to spin it, buying anything greater than D is an inefficient allocation of resources.
Meal plan D is the least expensive meal plan, offered at the low price of 1,890 dollars per semester, which gets you 1,890 dollars worth of quality food at affordable prices (well, affordable if you think Naked Juice should be priced at the same level as liquid gold). The next most expensive meal plan, meal plan C, costs 2,140 dollars. Because Occidental lets you add money at anytime to your meal plan, forcing yourself to spend 160 dollars (the difference between D and C) of your own money makes zero sense. In addition, if you add Flex money to your account after the meal plan expires, all purchases are discounted five percent. Buying meal plan C is the equivalent of choosing to spend an extra five cents on every dollar.
Meal plan B is a slightly different story, priced at 2,450 dollars. That comes down to 70 dollars worth of “Bonus money,” as Occidental likes to call it. While it is no doubt true that the extra 70 dollars is a form of “free money,” take the five percent discount into consideration. If one were to buy meal plan D and then purchase the remaining 560 dollars of meal plan money, they would get 28 dollars worth of bonus money. So yes, 70 is more than 28, but it is only really 42 dollars worth of bonus money.
For the person who insists on only eating at the Marketplace and has the uncanny ability to time their meal plan balance perfectly so they have exactly zero dollars left at the end of the semester, meal plan B could make sense. But take into consideration what 560 dollars gets one at the Marketplace versus at a grocery store. Naked Juice costs 4.75 dollars at the Marketplace, but costs just above 2 dollars at Fresh & Easy. A five-inch sandwich costs just under 5 dollars at the Marketplace. A 12-inch sandwich costs 5 dollars at Subway. While not everyone has the ability to take the casual drive to Eagle Rock Boulevard, one walking trip to Super A Foods results in far more than 42 dollars in savings.
The idea that money “rolls over” is something of a fallacy. Buying a meal plan of 2,450 dollars results in 310 dollars that can be rolled over to the next semester. All Flex money rolls over, every cent of it. Plus, it saves you five percent on all purchases. Spending an extra 560 dollars to get 310 dollars of rollover, instead of spending 560 dollars to get 560 dollars of rollover, is, for lack of a better term, idiotic.
Meal plan A is the worst. Firstly, if anyone can justify spending 5,520 dollars over the course of the year for seven months of food, then they are quite the privileged individual.
But back to the economics for a second. 2,760 dollars results in 140 dollars of bonus money. The five percent discount on the difference between meal plans D and A is 39 dollars. So by spending an extra 780 dollars on over-priced food, one saves 101 dollars. Choosing to spend 780 dollars at the Marketplace when you have the option to shop around is like choosing to purchase all your Coca-Colas from the mini-bar at the Ritz-Carlton rather than at Costco. Even if the Ritz gives you 101 dollars of mini-bar money at the end of purchasing 780 dollars worth of food and drink from the mini-bar, you would have saved hundreds by simply shopping at Costco.
Occidental is a business and the meal plan is a great source of revenue. However, it is troublesome that a school claiming to be one of the best in the country is so easily able to trick students into bad consumerism. And to those who say, “It’s my parents money so I don’t care,” shame on you. Money is money. The difference between 51,000 dollars versus 50,000 dollars is the same as 1,000 dollars and free.
888•If money isn’t an issue in your family and you would rather just get meal plan A so you can drink all the Naked Juice you want and not have to bother calling home to get more meal plan money, grow up, drink tap water from time to time and donate those 1,000 dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They need it more than you and your desire for sugar-filled fruit drinks.
Alex Zeldin is a junior AHVA major. He can be reached at [email protected]
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