The future of Campus Dining: changes could bring Starbucks, bigger meal plans

Josie Barnes, Reporter

App State’s standard meal plan only covers 58% of meals for the semester; however, proposed dining plan options could cover 100%, for $900 more. 

Pam Cline, director of Campus Dining, and John Eckman, associate vice chancellor of campus services, proposed unlimited dining plans and changes to dining halls to the Student Government Association. The plans would increase the number of local and national franchises on campus. 

They also hope to create an advisory board of SGA members to better understand what students seek from Campus Dining.

Cline said two-thirds of App State students experience food insecurity, especially at this point in the semester when students’ meal plan funds often start to run low.

Cline and Eckman proposed meal plans designed to cover a greater percentage of meals and create a “worry-free situation,” Cline said. 

 The $2,300 Unlimited 7-Day Plan would allow any student unlimited swipes in dining halls seven days a week, while the $2,000 Weekly 14 plan allows students to come in and out of the dining hall 14 times per week. The Unlimited 7 or Weekly 14 plan would be mandatory for first year students.

Some students are concerned they will not be able to afford the proposed meal plan options.

Junior computer science major Gabriel Arellano said even “the low (meal plan) is already out of my budget.”

Upperclassmen would have the option of the $2,000 Unlimited 5 plan, $1,650 Weekly 10 plan or $1,200 Weekly 7 plan. The Unlimited 5 plan allows students as many swipes as they want five days a week, while the Weekly 10 and Weekly 7 plans allow 10 and seven swipes, respectively, a week. Commuters could purchase a $500 Block 35 plan allowing 35 swipes per semester.

Eckman said Campus Dining wants to include university initiatives like sustainability, growing enrollment and the Food for Everyone initiative aimed at combating food insecurity to build a change in dining halls and meal plans valuable to students. 

 “(Sustainability is) not only just an initiative, it is intertwined and important in every aspect of our business operations each and every day through all of our services and all of our decisions we make as a department,” Cline said.

She said Campus Dining wants to present more “plant-forward options,” making more nutritious, sustainable foods available to students. 

Eckman said they want to improve on-campus dining through a greater variety of food, varying hours and a community feel in the dining halls.

“I’m vegetarian, so a lot of the food options kind of run out, and we don’t have as many choices toward the end of the semester,” said Alex Zacher, junior geology major. “I think it gets harder to keep it up.”

Eckman and Cline presented blueprints to SGA of Sanford Commons, Rivers Street Cafe, Cascades and Trivette to show easier access to convenient foods and additional seating to accompany the anticipated influx of students next year.

Dining administrators want to meet students where they are in their lives and provide “convenience opportunities,” Cline said.

Sanford Commons could house a full Chick-Fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Starbucks, Comeback Shack, Panda Express and App State’s own branded Chipotle. Campus Dining has also begun working with local vendors to have a farmers’ market in Roess Dining Hall once a week.

App State wants to “increase national and local franchises” in dining halls, Eckman and Cline said.   

If Chick-Fil-A, Comeback Shack and Panda Express were at Sanford Commons, Arellano said he would go every day.

Sanford Commons would also have a healthy $4 to $5 meal that would include protein and vegetables. Eckman said the current average price per meal is $6.50.  

 Cline and Eckman also proposed living room seating with soft chairs and televisions, along with various sections of the dining halls set aside for studying throughout the school year. 

The changes would transform Cascades into a kiosk system, where students fully customize their order ahead of time, and it would be waiting for pick up.

There would be a custom salad and deli sandwich station, a hot entree of the day, featuring a comfort food, grain bowl station and a bakery counter at Cascades.

The ground floor of Trivette, where the AppCard office is currently located, would turn into a coffee shop overlooking Duck Pond.

Freshman criminal justice major Elizabeth Wilson said the new coffee shop would be beneficial because there aren’t currently any coffee shops located on West Campus.

These changes would also grow the student employee base because dining halls would be open longer and serve 42% more meals.

“We want to meet the needs of your cosmopolitan palette,” Cline said.