Students race to reach zero balance

Lizzie Martinez

-photo by Jordan Jacobo/Review staff writer/photographer

Only 20 days of classes remain this spring, and only 105 meals are left for those on a meal plan before the end of the semester.

Because the extra money on students’ meal plans expires at the end of spring semester, the annual rush to reach the coveted zero balance is about to begin, Sodexho Supervisor Wanda Maupin said.

“In the next two weeks,
the (Observatory) store will start getting lots busier,” Maupin said, who has worked there for
seven years.

Last year, students left a total of $8,500 on their meal plans, a slightly higher amount than the previous year.

“Linfield students are very good at not leaving very much money at the end of the year,” Director of Auxiliary Services Brad
Sinn said.

Any money students leave on meal plans has already been spent on inventory. At the end of last year, the money covered inventory that had already been purchased, but was not consumed,
Sinn said.

Discussion among students about the variety of meal plans offered is taken into consideration by administrators. All freshmen are required to purchase the standard meal plan during their first semester at Linfield, and all students living in residence halls are required to purchase a meal plan.

“Parents’ biggest concern when their students go to college is if they are going to eat enough,” Sinn said. “The standard meal plan solves that.”

Maupin acknowledges the wide diversity in the quantity of food students consume.

“Generally, the young women have more points than the young men, and the (men) tend to take advantage of that,” Maupin said.

At the end of sophomore Becca Pechette’s first year at Linfield, she found herself with $100 left on her declining balance on the last day of school. She headed to the Observatory, where she found it surprisingly hard to spend that much in one shopping spree, she said.

Her final tally included items such as chips, boxes of Mentos, plastic cups, laundry detergent, chopsticks and plenty of Advil.

“You can never have too much Advil,” Pechette said. “Anything that’s not perishable and can last me till the next year, I’ll buy. I’m not going to buy food and sit in my room at home eating food from the Observatory.”

Though the cash register at the Observatory will only run transactions up to $50, Maupin said she has seen students come in and spend $300 in one visit.

Because her options to use her money are limited, Pechette was forced to be creative in finding uses for her purchases, such as buying extra plasticware to use in art projects.

In the next two weeks, Maupin will change her ordering practices, as she begins to purchase cases of certain items such as Gatorade, water and energy bars.

“If I see a student with lots of points, I tell them to place an order with me,”
Maupin said.

Having observed the intricacies of the meal plan system at Linfield, Maupin likes the flexibility of the plans. Pechette, however, does not.

“It’s not fair we have to have a certain amount of money,” she said. “I’ll end up going to the Observatory on the last day again with $100 to spend.”

This year, Pechette selected the smallest meal plan, which comes with only $330.00 in declining balance per semester. Even so, Pechette estimates she still has over $200 to spend in the remaining weeks of school.

“What I don’t like to see are students who aren’t using their plans,” Maupin said. “They need to communicate with their parents, so their money is put to better use than to buy cases of
Top Ramen.”

Hot ticket items during the last month that help students use money quickly are jerky, which costs $6 per bag, and cases of water.

The month of May is tricky for Maupin as she tries to satisfy the demands of the students, who are trying to spend money, and leave the Observatory empty on the last day of school. Generally, Maupin said she is successful at leaving the store barren.

Because the Observatory is not open during the summer, any perishable items are donated to the food bank, Retail and Catering Manager Jason Briles said.

Sinn noted many students are unaware of the variety of ways to use the money besides eating.

Students have the option of ordering specialty food from Dining Services through the catering division, such as ice cream socials and pizza parties for a residence hall or club. For example, Hewitt Hall is planning a gourmet buffet featuring grilled chicken with artichokes and more in two weeks,
Briles said.

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