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Flex 10′ option faces obstacles to approval

Jen Rowling | Friday, January 21, 2005

While Notre Dame Food Services acknowledges and appreciates students’ suggestions for creating a Flex 10 meal plan option, there remain some concerns to be addressed, food service officials said.

“Food Services and the University administration are not necessarily opposed to offering a 10-meals-per-week meal plan option for resident students,” said Dave Prentkowski, director of Notre Dame Food Services. “Although, there is a definite interest in protecting the traditional culture of the dining hall experience, which encourages community gathering and interaction.”

The Student Senate and Campus Life Council have recently discussed the merits of adding a Flex 10 meal plan option, which would allot each student 10 meals per week in the dining halls and increase Flex Points proportionately. While the senate pointed out that Food Services’ current Flex 14 option already assumes that students eat only 10 meals a week. Food service officials said the excess dollars are used to increase quality in the dining halls.

“We are giving you roast beef instead of hamburgers … better meals and more variety,” said Dan Patterson, operations manager of South Dining Hall. “I just don’t think students understand [the value of] what they are getting now.”

Prentkowski said he is not certain that the current meal plan has sufficient funds to both maintain quality dining hall operations and grant additional Flex dollars.

“Offering a 10-meals-per-week meal plan option really comes down to a matter of economics,” he said.

These funding problems mirror those that arose when Flex 10 was considered in the past, Prentkowski said.

Until the fall semester of 1998, all resident students had a 21-meals-per-week meal plan. That year, the current ID card system was implemented, allowing for debit payments. Thus the Flex 14 meal plan was born, accompanied by 200 flex points. As a result, that year Notre Dame’s campus welcomed a renovated South Dining Hall, Reckers and Burger King. Students then regularly used all 14 meals a week, Prentkowski said.

“The intent of the program was for the Flex dollars to complement the dining hall meal service by allowing students a limited amount of funds for the occasional meal outside the dining halls and for late night snacks,” he said.

Since 1998, dining hall patterns have changed, but students’ habits have bean reasonably stable for the past three to four years. With students generally consuming only 10 meals a week, funds have been available to add value and quality to the dining program.

Flex 14 users now receive 260 Flex points. Food service hours have expanded, as well as Grab N’ Go selection. Subway, Starbucks, Sbarro and Buen Provecho have opened amid the sea of excess funds.

Food Services has met with Student Government representatives and promises to work on a plan that meets students’ needs.

“We will give [their ideas] thought and consideration,” Prentkowski said, “and continue to work with this student representative group with the goal of providing meal plan programs and services that are best for the Notre Dame resident students.”