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ARA raises prices, changes meal plan

By Prabhat Mehta

MIT students this year will face higher prices but more alternatives -- which include bonus credit for larger meal plans -- from MIT's Food Service.

Price increases took effect Saturday, Sept. 2, after a careful cost evaluation over the summer, according to Alan Leil, general manager of Food Services, which is run by the catering company ARA. Rather than make an across the board increase in prices, Leil, Director of Housing and Food Service John McNeill, and the managers of MIT's dining halls decided to look at the cost of each food item sold, considering such criteria as changes in the costs of ingredients, labor, and general operations (electricity, paper, machinery, etc.).

Food Service price increases are usually considered every year. The goal is to assign prices which accurately reflect the value of individual items, according to Leil. "Every item is different ... We want a hamburger to cost what it would [anywhere else] ... We're hoping to be price sensitive," he said.

The minimum meal plan requirement for those who live in dormitories with meal service -- Baker House, MacGregor House, 500 Memorial Drive, and McCormick Hall -- also increased from $623 to $673.

New meal plan offerings

increase choices

This term's meal plan offerings include a new "guaranteed meal plan," as well as bonus credit for larger subscriptions. Traditional meal plan offerings have been limited to the "declining balance system," whereby students request a certain dollar value credited to their meal accounts. The cost of each purchase would then be subtracted from the account balance.

Under the new "guaranteed meal plan," which applies to a $775 plan, students would be allowed ten meals per week each week in Baker. Baker charges one price in their commons ("all you can eat") program. In addition, each student would be alloted $200 in a declining balance account.

Three large meal plans have been offered which add percentage bonuses to the purchaser's meal account. A student who takes out a $775 (without guaranteed meals), $875, or $975 plan will have an extra 5, 10, or 15 percent added to his or her plan.

Those who live in dormitories with meal service, however, will only get percentage increases based on the differences between their minimum meal requirement and the plans they've selected.

The idea behind giving bonuses for larger meal plans was provide "an incentive to get people to participate in the program ... no question about it," Leil said.