This is a video opinion piece you can watch on Good Evening KU.
We need to have a conversation about food insecurity and who gets prioritized here on campus. You may not be aware of the major changes to the meal plans that students have to buy when they live on campus. It used to be that you paid for meal swipes to an all you can eat dining hall. There was a ten meals a week plan, a fourteen meals a week plan, and an all access plan. Where you can go into the dining hall as many times as you’d like. No limits.
However, this changed last year to a “declining balance plan.” Where your KU card simply becomes a debit card you load up with student loan money. Freshmen are given a couple thousand dollars a semester and impulsive eighteen-year-olds are supposed to budget their expenses every week.
This was done with the explicit intention of getting students to spend more money on food. Students are supposed to spend their money at KU’s “retail” locations like the Underground. Retail locations that just happen to charge six dollars and thirty-three cents for a cheeseburger alone. And that includes the slight “discount” a dining plan gives you. A full cheese burger with fries and a drink will cost over ten dollars. While last year you could get the same thing at a dining hall plus more for around eight dollars.
Just look at KU Dining’s beta sample budget for the cheapest declining balance plan. They expected students to literally skip meals and eat at the Union or the Underground most days. Four of those skipped meals are for going home. Which is not something everyone can do. The poorest students buy the cheapest meal plan and KU expects them to waltz to Johnson County for mom’s spaghetti. For low income students, those days where it says “gone home” are days where they just don’t eat.
But these changes weren’t made with low income students in mind. They were made for the wealthy. The affluent students who order pizza every night because they are tired of Mrs. E’s by the second week on campus.
For more proof, just look at how K-U decreased the amount of money students get in their declining balance plans for this year while raising the price of a dining hall pass to nine dollars. While it makes it more similar to the “retail” prices, it screws over low income students even more.
And food insecurity is already a massive issue on campus. In 2016, fifty four percent of all students at K-U said they were food insecure. And that was before the price increases and dining plan changes. I wonder why they haven’t released any numbers since.
We need to have a conversation on who our meal plans are supposed to cater to. Right now, K-U thinks eating is for the rich, but I think students are hungry for change.
After the break, we will be back with the news.