According to the Keene State College student handbook, on-campus students are required to have a meal plan through Sodexo, but one student has started a movement to change that.
KSC sophomore Joseph Stallcop recently started a petition against the requirement that has gotten over 100 signatures from current KSC students.
The petition reads, “You are forced to suck it up and pay for a service that besides not being involved with your education, often doesn’t meet the standards that most would like.”
According to the Keene State College Meal Plan Contract Terms and Conditions, “residential students may only be released from this meal plan contract if they are released from their housing contract,” meaning that they forfeit their on-campus housing.
Residential students living in Bushnell or Pondside II are the only ones exempt from the contract, because there are full kitchens in those on-campus apartments.
Director of Residential Life and Housing Services Kent Drake-Deese said that there are a number of reasons behind the mandatory meal plan, including fire safety and cleanliness.
“If you don’t have a meal plan, then that kind of encourages cooking… which is a fire hazard,” Drake-Deese said. “[There are] sanitary conditions of the food handling… you can get all kinds of food-borne illnesses even if you’re the cleanest person on Earth.”
General manager of the Dining Commons Josef Quirinale works for Sodexo, and said he is hired by the campus to manage food service and funds for meal plans.
“[Campus] is in the business of educating, not in the business of preparing food,” Quirinale said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that all the food that we serve is safe, so we assume that responsibility. It’s rather a major undertaking. They have enough to think about with curriculum, courses, and facilities.”
An additional reason for the mandatory meal plans is the lack of full kitchens in the dorms that are not apartments.
“We do have kitchens that are purposefully used for community building, but they’re not set up to sustain consistent cooking for the number of people in the building who would be using it,” Quirinale said.
Further, Quirinale said that the mandatory meal plan contract ensures that students are actually eating.
“It’s a way to ensure that students have access to a healthy diet and can maintain a healthy diet without having to do it themselves,” Quirinale said.
Stallcop said that one of the issues he has with the meal plan contract is that he feels he cannot eat as healthy as he would like.
“I’m currently trying to eat better, and I feel the only way I see doing that is eating good, lean meats, good produce, things like that. They have places around here, like the co-op and supermarkets where you can obtain those but it’s very difficult with the DC in general,” Stallcop said.
He continued, “Just [last] week, we had a day where they had chicken nuggets and fries for lunch, and fried fish and fries for dinner. To be telling me that this is a nutrition factor when that is literally the food of the day I just find is not only laughable but almost absolutely reprehensible.”
However, Quirinale said that students who believe that there aren’t enough healthy options might not have taken the time to really look around at the options.
Drake-Deese said “I would challenge students who make that claim, is it that or are they just eating the same thing all the time?”
Another issue that Stallcop said he had with the meal plan contract is that he feels the food quality is better during parent’s weekends and special events, and is not as good during other times.
“To have food quality skyrocket and then completely plummet all the time is just not enjoyable,” Stallcop said.
Quirinale said that this is not true.
“The food is no different when parents are here or on special weeks. What we do is we ramp up how much we do, because we’re expecting more people, but it’s not different,” Quirinale said.
Concerning the petition, Quirinale said “I think that student’s have a right to question, but I would also like to feel that they have an open mind to listen to what the reasons are behind the mandatory meal plan. Most schools do have it. It’s pretty standard procedure.”
Similarly, Drake-Deese said “everybody gets tired eating what they eat on a regular basis and they would like a change from that… [that] doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the Dining Commons.”
The petition currently has 116 signatures from students, which has a goal of one thousand. Anyone interested in signing can find it on ipetitions.com.
Devon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org