Meal plan matchup: Geneseo prices higher

Food prices are undoubtedly the eternal gripe of on-campus students, and an examination of the price of meal plan options for a number of local colleges shows Geneseo's are higher, but not by much.

The examination, which included both private and state institutions, reveals a wide range of price gaps from very expensive block plans at Nazareth College and the University of Rochester, to the relatively cheaper plans at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Geneseo shows slightly higher, but generally comparable prices when compared with other SUNY institutions and private schools.

According to Ginny Geer-Mentry, director of Dining Services, "We really try very hard to keep prices down." She said that CAS tries not to raise the prices on items that serve basic nutritional needs, such as milk.

Student opposition to CAS centers, to some extent, around the Facebook group, "Hold CAS Accountable," which boasts over 200 members and is critical of CAS. The group's message professes anger at price mark-ups, and claims the organization is not upfront about where meal plan money goes.

"We got here and noticed discrepancies between here and market prices," said group creator Michele Reitz, a sophomore.

The criticism doesn't stop there.

"There is a major lack of communication between CAS and the student body that has led to all sorts of rumors," said sophomore J.T. Andrews, another group member.

CAS Executive Director Mark J. Scott agreed with Geer-Mentry's position on food prices. "We work really hard not to pass down costs to students," he said.

Scott also noted that CAS constantly looks at different supply chains that best fit their needs. Many students are unaware of CAS's efforts, he said, because they feel that the money they spend is not reflected by the food that they purchase.

For example, senior Kyu-Re Lee remarked that the prices at Geneseo aren't comparable with those at grocery stores. "Dole Juices here are very expensive" he noted.

In response, Scott said, "These places have significant buying power where we are buying for only 3,000 people. It is a challenge for us, but we are focused on affordable rates."

Unlike some other colleges, Geneseo does not offer a block program, where students pay a set price for a certain number of meals per week, in addition to flex money to spend at any time.

Students who live on campus are required to choose one of the offered meal plans at Geneseo. Other schools such as SUNY Brockport and Fredonia have a similar requirement. Most schools also have a minimum plan requirement for first year campus residents.

A few colleges - including Fredonia and RIT - have an option that allows students to roll over their remaining balance from the fall semester to the following spring semester. This doesn't apply, however, to plans in the following year.

An additional concern of students is the deduction of the $300 fee at the beginning of the year from the meal plans. Geer-Mentry said that, "the overhead is used for Red Jacket and Letchworth all-you-care-to-eat dining centers. The cost to run those facilities is a lot more than $6.75 that you pay for dinner."

Geneseo is also not the only school that deducts charges from the initial meal plan costs. SUNY Brockport's declining meal plans have a fee of $765 that allows students to pay discounted prices for food at dining halls as well as covering operating expenses.

Geer-Mentry claimed that CAS is constantly trying to make improvements to cut cost. She described one way CAS reduces overhead. "We try to make sure downtimes don't have too much labor." She also noted that although Pepsi products have raised their prices, CAS has yet to do so because of the students demand for the product.

Geer-Mentry stressed that it is very is important to gauge student satisfaction by participating in surveys, such as the upcoming one for students who live on the north side of campus.

Both Geer-Mentry and Scott said that meal plans are up for review each year and so far, no overwhelming complaints have been made in regards to prices this year.