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Block meal plans leave some Ohio State students with excess food

Jennifer Jung / Lantern photographer

Students are finding innovative ways to use their blocks as the semester nears its end.
“We just came here tonight to Woody’s and decided to buy two sheets of pizza,” said Brandon Swanzer, a first-year in environmental science, while in the Ohio Union Saturday night.
Swanzer said he had 450 blocks at the beginning of the semester and had about 280 left after he purchased the pizza.
“I have blocks to blow,” Swanzer said.
His roommate, first-year in mechanical engineering Dominic Szpak, is in the same boat. Szpak went with Swanzer at Woody’s Saturday and used his blocks to purchase one of the two pizzas. The roommates were able to feed a whole group of their friends, and they spent six blocks each.
Ohio State nears the end of its first semester with the block meal plan, which was implemented by the university along with the semester switch.
The university offers four different meal plans with the block system. There’s the traditional plan, the unlimited plan, a plan that gives students 450 blocks and a plan that gives students 600 blocks. The traditional plan offers students 19 meals a week at traditional dining locations such as North, Morrill and Kennedy commons along with two additional blocks per week that can be used at other operations. The unlimited plan offers unlimited meals at traditions dining along with 10 additional blocks per week that can be used at all dining locations. A block has a value of $5.
“I don’t eat that much food, but I don’t want to eat at the Commons every day, so we went with the 450,” Swanzer said.
With about five weeks before the meal plans expire at the end of the semester, the disparity between numbers of blocks left and time left in the semester has left some students surprised.
Ethan Cutlip, a first-year in engineering, said he purchased the 450-block plan expecting it to be an appropriate amount of food for the whole semester. He said he even tried to work out a budget so he would not run out and go hungry.
However, he said after a while he realized running out of food wasn’t going to be problem.  
“I’m just trying to find ways to get rid of them now,” Swanzer said.
Szpak said he thought the plan was reasonable and said it is just a reality of campus living.
“I’m satisfied with the meal plan,” Szpak said. “I have more than enough food obviously and the meals are reasonably priced.”
Cutlip said compared to $24,445 out-of-state tuition, meal plans in the $2,000 range are reasonably priced. OSU’s meal plans range in cost from $1,737.50 for the traditional plan to $2,650 for the unlimited plan.
However, Swanzer suggested the university change its plans to lower the numbers of blocks.  
“Generally I think it’s good, but I feel like they should have a lower plan,” Swanzer said. He said the university should have plans for students that provide for fewer then 450 blocks.
Cutlip said he wanted to see a campus meal plan around 300 or 350 blocks.  
“After first-year data we will have the flexibility to tweak the plan, generated by feedback,” said Zia Ahmed, senior director of Dining Services, in a February interview with The Lantern, and that intermediate plans will likely be added in the future.
Swanzer said based on his experience, he thought some students are getting ripped off. Swanzer said those with the unlimited plan have no chance of getting their money’s worth.
“I almost feel bad for them because they are spending more money than I am, but I’m getting a better deal,” Swanzer said.

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