New meal plan price goes up; times to eat go down

    Students living in Rigby Hall, the only residence open besides Windsor Street housing, are required to buy the 14-meal plan. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    St. Thomas University first-year student Makira Asprey said she wakes up at 6 a.m. and eats granola bars and other snacks to hold her over until lunch. But the Rigby Hall dining hall doesn’t start serving lunch until noon, six hours after Asprey wakes up.

    “You do get distracted when your stomach’s growling trying to watch a lecture or be on a live Zoom,” Asprey said.

    Brock Richardson, director of student services and residence life, said the decision to take away a breakfast time was because most students wouldn’t be up that early if they didn’t have to be since many classes are asynchronous this semester.

    “When your numbers get smaller, it becomes tougher to be economical for a plan and for that plan to not only balance being a reasonable price point for students, but to also offer a few different choices at each meal and offer good quality food,” Richardson said.

    He said if students are early risers, there’s a Tim Hortons on campus where they could opt to have breakfast. But Tim Hortons is not open on weekends.

    According to Google Maps, it takes approximately 20 minutes to walk up the trail to campus. Students can also take the bus which comes hourly.

    Rigby and Windsor Street are the only residences open. Rigby residents have to buy the 14-meal plan this year according to the STU website.

    The website also reads that in a typical academic year, the 14-meal plan cost students $3,800. It included 14 weekly meals at the dining hall along with $500 STU dollars to use at Tim Hortons, Subway or Java Moose. STU also included 10-meal and freedom meal plans.

    This year, STU only offers the 14-meal plan. The plan costs $3,995 and only includes $200 STU dollars for use at Tim Hortons. Subway and Java Moose are closed due to COVID-19.

    Along with the cost of residence and the meal plan, Asprey said she spends more of her own money to buy snacks for when meal hall is closed.

    “I’ll get snacking throughout the day which is definitely a downside to only having those two times a day to actually go down [to meal hall,]” said Asprey.

    After St. Thomas University removed breakfast from this year’s meal plans, Makira Asprey doesn’t eat her first meal until noon. (Submitted: Makira Asprey)

    The meal hall is open from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for supper.

    Richardson said STU didn’t want to be put in a situation where they have unnecessary food waste.

    “If a student doesn’t need to get up for an 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. class every day, then having the meal hall open at 7 or 8 or 9 o’clock is just going to be staff sitting there preparing food, working and then setting food out that nobody’s going to come and eat.”

    Asprey said the social aspect of meal hall has been completely eliminated.

    She said not many people eat inside the dining hall because you can’t sit with anyone anyway, so it’s awkward if you do want to eat in. She said most people take their food to go.

    “I find there [aren’t] a lot of people sitting in meal hall, which then makes you feel like a sore thumb for sticking out if you do sit down,” Asprey said.

    But because of COVID-19, Asprey said she understands the seating restrictions.

    Asprey also said the timing can be inconvenient sometimes. She said she sometimes has a lecture at 12:30 p.m. which gives her very little time to get her lunch and eat before the lecture.

    STU offers snacks with the meals, but saving those snacks can be difficult if you don’t have a mini-fridge like Asprey.

    She said she wished STU had a snack bar that included fresh fruit, veggies or yogurt for students who are up early or students who can’t make the lunch or supper sessions.

    “So when it is 8 in the morning, I might be the only one up, but I still can go down, grab a banana or something to tide me over to lunch.”