COVID-19 makes meal plan conversion possible for some students

Ryan Dick and Ryan Dick

In a normal year, meal swipes included in a student’s meal plan do not roll over to the next semester or convert into Falcon Dollars.

However, coronavirus has made this year anything but normal.

Due to COVID-19, some students are interested in converting their swipes into Falcon Dollars to offer more flexibility for purchasing food outside the dining halls during the pandemic.

Falcon Media asked 100 random students in person around campus if they think an option to convert swipes into Falcon Dollars would be beneficial for students during the pandemic. Overwhelmingly, 99 out of the 100 students said such a conversion option would be beneficial.

BGSU Chief Health Officer Ben Batey is not opposed to the idea either.

“I think there might be some benefit in that, looking at it from the perspective of being flexible and offering students options,” he said.

With the COVID-19 protocol currently in place at the dining halls, Batey said he does not know if a swipe conversion would necessarily be a safer option for students.

“I checked with my colleagues and we haven’t heard any concerns from students around the safety in dining halls,” he said. “We’re following all of the same protocols for any restaurant in the state of Ohio.”

Executive Director of Business Operations Brad Leigh has oversight for BGSU Dining and manages the contract with Chartwells, a business that assists BGSU Dining. As of now, BGSU Dining is not planning to offer a meal swipe conversion for students, he said.

“Our first-year meal plans are designed to offer the best variety and nutritionally healthy selections for our students as they begin their on-campus experience,” Leigh said. “We believe the balanced meal plan is important, helps maximize efficiencies and helps control operational costs.”

Leigh said the overall goal with the meal plan program is to provide great value to students at a low cost.

“If you do adjust it, what the students have to understand is it will be at the expense of subsequent years’ meal plan programs,” he said.

According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, BGSU has the second-lowest public university meal plan cost for students in the state.

“We manage that by making sure we are producing for what we need,” Leigh said. “That whole model is designed on making sure we have the right labor model and the right amount of food that we are ordering for the number of students we could see.”

Although a conversion is not available for every student, students with preexisting health conditions can reach out to BGSU Accessibility Services to see if they are eligible for a meal plan adjustment.

The university can make accommodations for students through Accessibility Services, where the student goes through a verification process documenting that an accommodation is needed. Accommodations are based on each student’s individual situation.

“For our office to consider dining accommodations a student would need to provide documentation with information regarding a medical condition or disability,” Accessibility Services Coordinator Bailey Murphy said.

Accessibility Services will inform the student about what documentation will be needed and discuss options as well as the next steps.

Students interested in contacting Accessibility Services can call the office at (419) 372-8495 or by emailing [email protected]