Where do student meal plan dollars go?

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Where do student meal plan dollars go?

Holmes dining renovations costing over $100,000 were paid for via Fund 573.

Holmes dining renovations costing over $100,000 were paid for via Fund 573.

Xander Fu

Holmes dining renovations costing over $100,000 were paid for via Fund 573.

Xander Fu

Xander Fu

Holmes dining renovations costing over $100,000 were paid for via Fund 573.

Bryce Jungquist, Staff Reporter

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In a previous version of this article, Joel Klucking’s name was misspelled as ‘Joseph Klucking.

Small, medium, large and extra large. These are the different meal plan sizes available to students at CWU. Each one dictates the average weekly number of meals someone could eat at various dining halls on campus. Yet, students may not know where the remaining money on their connection card ends up at the end of spring quarter.

Leftover meal plan money in the past five years has added up to a total of $220,910. In the last five years, the annual amount of remaining meal plan funds has ranged from $23,668 to $69,756.

Joseph Klucking, CFO and Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs, said any excess meal plan money goes into the Dining Services account. The funds then are put towards maintaining dining operations.

In the past, the money has ended up in the reserves after being sent to dining operations. It is used for important equipment replacements or reviving the facilitities.

“We are talking about now diverting whatever that money is,” Klucking said. “Hoping that it’s zero, but if there is some money there, we are going to start a food cooperative.”

Klucking said they will begin growing their own produce inside greenhouses and these will be located close to a community garden. He said there are also conversations with local farmers regarding purchasing things like pastured pork and grass-fed beef. He said the leftover funds would aid in countering the cost of those projects.

Dan Layman, Director of Dining Services, said that all their money goes into an account at the end of the year to be used for renovations.

“I’m not on that committee, but what they would say is the Bassetties needed a new roof. That was say a $5 million project,” Layman said. “Well, they might know they have $4 million in the bank right now [and] will end the year at this amount. So, $5 million is going to go to the Bassetties remodel.”

Layman added that if Dining required one new stove that costs $30,000, they would make the request. He said money came out of the same fund when they recreated the dining room in Holmes, which was more than $100,000 for the entire renovation.

The funds students didn’t get back may have also gone to countless university driven renovations. The reserve account mentioned by both Klucking and Layman is called Fund 573. It’s mainly for housing and dining, but includes conferencing, catering and services as well.

Each of these departments share operating profits and expenditures together. They had a net operating income of $6,009,796 last year before additional non-related expenses were taken out.

Dining Services had a revenue of $13,797,481 before expenses. That means $69,756 or about half a percent was from leftover meal plans. Patrick Stanton, a controller for accounting and financial services, said he wouldn’t want to see this reach 5 percent.

“I don’t even want to see one percent myself, but I’m just the accountant,” he said. “It would be up to Joseph [Pearson] and Dan [Layman] to figure out what to do.”

CWU Dining Services is a member of NACUFS, (national association of college and university food services). Stanton said NACUFS releases a large standard study each year.

He said there could be a number referring to the industry standard.

 

Efforts to spend the money  

 

Stanton said he hopes that students will get a meal plan which fits their needs and change it when needed. Students can pick a smaller or larger plan during winter and spring quarter. Stanton said many take advantage of this.

“Dan [Layman] tries to get a hold of those that for whatever reason are not spending it,” Stanton said. “The goal would be to have no money left over but I think part of it is just a bell curve statistical thing.”

Klucking said with the whole issue regarding leftover meal plan money, this is not how everything is supposed to function. He said they do not count on the remaining funds to be there and do everything possible to communicate to students.

He added that CWU attempts to warn students that their balance is higher than anticipated in the early point of the year. This way, someone with a meal plan can try to get this number to zero. But often, there isn’t a lot of response from the students contacted through email.

“If we sent out 200 emails, we only get a handful back about students that are interested,” Klucking said. “I think students need to take control of the offer and they need to be responsive to our dining director when he sends out these messages because we really do want all the money to be spent.”

Klucking said if students don’t keep an eye on their balances, they’re trying to find ways to utilize the money that’s a common good for every person with a meal plan.   

In response, CWU has created the Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) program for students who have food insecurity where they can get a meal out of donated leftover meal plan money. PUSH is an initiative designed to help students who are hungry or don’t have a place to live, according to page on CWU’s website.

Klucking said it’s better to do this than have someone purchasing a tub of beef jerky. Studnts can also use the money to help fund the making of the food CWU creates.

“We can grow our own tomatoes and lettuce, that’s going to [be] far more sustainable and require less fossil fuel then if we buy it from Spokane Produce, who buys it from Chile,” Klucking said. “The students have told us that they want this type of thing, even though this is a very small dollar amount [as] it’s not going to pay for all that stuff.”

Layman said this year has been a bit different regarding people trying to unload money around spring time. Students with meal plans can donate to PUSH, if they’re feeling like giving back. Dining also collaborated with student government and other clubs to have things such as food drives.

Dining services could be bringing in items the food bank could welcome like canned goods, but not fresh fish because it won’t keep. Theoretically, students could buy these items and donate them.

“The previous years, students could say I want so much money to go [this thing], then there were like four different organizations that they could designate their money too,” Layman said. “But it got to be mostly outside campus groups and giving it to the humane society really wasn’t benefiting students on campus.”

Layman said it was a good idea, but they have changed that option now. When CWU becomes aware of a food drive, they could stock up on non-parishables like soups. He said when they knew of a food drive taking place, they could stock up on Campbell soups and things like. This way students with meal plans can purchase these items and donate them to those in need.

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Where do student meal plan dollars go?