Recently, I received questions concerning the expenditures on some of our boys’ meal plans. After consulting with the food service staff and investigating a number of specific cases in which a family thinks that their meal plan payment from first semester is prematurely depleted, I think I figured out what’s going on.
For reminders, there are two meal plans at MUS: Regular and Plus. The Regular plan, paid either by semester or annually, costs $426 first semester with 78 meals covered, $866 annually with 167 meals. Second semester costs $486 for the Regular plan, but I don’t yet know exactly the final number of meals. It will be a few more as we meet for more class sessions Second Semester. The Plus Plan costs $527 first semester, $1072 annually. Second semester costs $602 for the Plus Plan. Most people purchased either a semester or an annual plan at the fall book sale.
A Regular plan pays for one meat, one vegetable, one side (salad or dessert or chips) and one drink.
A Plus Plan pays for all of the same, plus one addition item of any one category.
The plans cover a finite number of lunches, and each time a subscribing student goes through the lunch check-out line, a meal is deducted. Simple.
U-Cards identify a student as a way of protecting the family’s investment and accounts for the activity.
Now here is where it gets arguably complicated. Students get hungry and exercise their free will according to what signals emit from their tummies. They choose items a-la-carte, independent of and in addition to their subscribed plans. When not paid for in cash, these items are paid for by a separate individual student debit account. No funds transfer out of the meal plan account for a-la-carte purchases. Therefore, when Junior drops by the cafeteria for breakfast or chooses a snack at lunch which falls outside of his plan, his debit card is charged. When a food service cashier says, “You have an additional item,” or, “You don’t have any money,” what they are saying is “Your extra food choice today is in addition to your plan. You have to pay for it or return it.”
If Junior pays cash, case closed. If Junior says, “OK,” then the cashier debits his debit account. If Junior hands the cashier a $20 and wants the money to go on his account, it goes into his designated debit account, and the transaction is recorded. On the off chance that Junior is frugal and desires to eat only the items stipulated on his plan, when notified of his discretion, he will get out of line and return the extra item, get back in line somewhere in the rear of the mob and again patiently await his turn at the cashier.
These accounts run out quickly as a significant number of the boys purchase food a-la-carte. These are the accounts under scrutiny by any parent investigating why their son’s account is being reported as low. The meal plan covered by either the semester or annual payment is not a factor in these discussions.
So there it is. A-la-carte purchases go against either a debit account which requires constant replenishing, or a-la-carte purchases are paid by cash. It’s kind of like the way one would use a checking account in contrast to a savings account. The debit account acts like a checking account, and it’s function is to satisfy Junior’s breakfast and snack choices outside of his contracted plan. The meal plan is the savings account designed for a set number of lunches which remains untouched in dollars being withdrawn, diminished only by the daily lunch plan transactions Junior initiates. A student has a finite number of meals per semester on the plans, and what he does not use at semester’s end is his loss, so he should be vigilant as he nears the end of each semester.
I hope this helps. Please calls the school’s Food Services Director John Nicholas at 260.1330 or email him at email@example.com if you have a particular question about your son’s meal plan.