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Meal plan transition earns mixed reviews from Ohio State students

Sungeun Jung / Lantern photographer

Some students have said they aren’t adjusting well to the new semester meal plan, and it’s about more than remembering to say “blocks” instead of “swipes.”
Ohio State’s new meal plan uses units called blocks instead of the swipes that were used in the quarter system. Each block is worth $5, and students have the option of buying 450 or 600 blocks per semester, and smaller 80- and 160-block plans for off-campus and commuter students.
With meal swipes, students would get an entrée with a specified number of sides that varied based on the dining location and meal. This year, students can get $5 worth of food per block.
While the blocks are intended to be a better deal for students, some have complained about having to do the math when standing in line for their food.
“I hate standing in line and trying to figure out if I have enough or too much food,” said Hannah Perrino, a second-year in architecture. “I feel bad especially for freshmen … It’s already embarrassing not knowing what you’re doing without having to do the math.”
Because blocks are priced differently, students don’t always get as much food with one block as they did with one swipe, and some have said they’re having a difficult time with the transition.
“Most meals take up two blocks, unless you’re just getting a small snack,” said Courtney Schmidt, a second-year in human nutrition. “At the (Ohio) Union (Market), I can only get a small side salad and a yogurt for one block.”
When the balance is more than $5, students must decide between using another block or spending money from their BuckID balance.
“Now with a coffee and a bagel, I also use 50 cents off my BuckID money,” Perrino said. “Last year, I would have had to use up a whole swipe, which is way more than $5.50.”
Even though a student has to use on average two blocks for a meal, Zia Ahmed, the senior director of University Residences and Dining Services, said you get a discount when using blocks.
“When you have the 450 block plan, you get $5 per block, but you are only paying $4.50 for that block when you pay for your meal plan,” Ahmed said.
With swipes, a student would pay about $10 per swipe when they would pay for a meal plan. When a student would go to Sloopy’s Diner or the Morrill C-Store, they could only get $6 worth of food with that swipe. Blocks don’t have that restriction – Ahmed said students pay $5 for $5 worth of food.
Despite drastic changes, some features of the block system closely resemble the swipe system, including the traditional and unlimited dining plans.
The traditional plan was also used with swipes. Students get 19 meals per week at any of the traditions dining halls, and also get two blocks per week to use at other dining halls.
The unlimited plan gives students access to the traditions dining as many times as they want during the week, but they also get 10 blocks per week to use at other dining halls.
“These new features offer students much more flexibility when eating on campus,” Ahmed said.
Even though some students have been skeptical of the new system, Ahmed thinks that as the year goes on, students will become more accustomed to the plans and notice the advantages.
“At the beginning of the year, we had many students asking questions,” Ahmed said. “But as the semester has gone on, we have heard many positive comments from students.”

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