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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

More flexible meal plan gives, takes: Changes include renovated Cage, flex dollars, new hours

By Aaron Johansen
Staff Writer

Friday, September 17, 2004

In response to budgeting issues, Bon Appétit presented a new meal plan last spring which would save the college money and bring more business to the Cage.

Bon Appétit conducted a study over several years which led to the expansion of the flex dollars system and the renovation of the Cage.

In the past, student use of Stav Hall on weekend mornings and breaks was not frequent enough to make the previous system cost effective. The new meal plan cut weekend breakfasts and regular meals during breaks.

Now students have 75 flex dollars per semester and 50 during Interim. Flex dollars do not roll over between these periods.

The extra business expected as a result of the new meal plan inspired the Cages interior renovation.

The renovation, funded by the college, includes more registers for ordering, an increased seating area, a larger variety in the menu, and better accessibility for handicapped individuals.

The flex dollar system and Cage renovation are part of St. Olafs effort to do more efficient business, Dean of Students Greg Knesear said. After a $3.2 million dollar deficit last year, St. Olaf has had to look for ways to save money.

The Cage hours are also now more accommodating for weekend breakfast and break meals. During the week, the Cage is open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Saturday, the hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sundays, the hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

St. Olaf athletes will be most affected by the changes. Without weekend breakfast, many St. Olaf sports teams will be left without a meal before their weekend games and practices.

Right now, most teams are handling this problem individually.

We [Bon Appétit and St. Olaf] are in the process of determining how best to accommodate the needs of student athletes for weekend breakfast, Hays Atkins, Bon Appétit general manager, said.

The vast majority of students, however, will be unaffected by the changes in meal times. So far, student response to the alterations has been positive.

I think the renovation is great, and the flex dollars make me happy, George Bagan 06 said.

Students who used the Cage often last year were pleased with the changes.

I really like the renovation and flex dollars, it seems like an effective use of space and money, Stacy Wood 06 said. Also, it gives the students more options.

Other students agreed that the service has improved.

The Cage seems a lot faster in terms of service compared to last year, Paul Sovik-Seimens 05 said. Plus, the selection of food is better.

So far, flex dollars are only useful at Bon Appétit operations on campus, which include Stav Hall and the Cage.

Bon Appétit may soon open a small coffee shop in Rolvaag Library, which would also accept flex dollars.

The new flex system is the first of the growing economic uses predicted for the student ID card.

St. Olaf would like to see them [flex dollars] expand beyond food, Kneser said.

It may be possible in the future to use student IDs to make purchases at the bookstore, the Pause, or any other high-traffic business on campus, Kneser said.

Overall, student feedback about the meal changes seems postive.

I think that the flex dollar system still needs to be improved, Matthias Hunt 07 said. But, I think the idea of students having flex dollars is a step forward.

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