Rising grocery costs poses a question for students without a meal plan

Rising grocery costs poses a question for students without a meal plan

Students consider the decision to have a meal plan amidst rising grocery store prices.
Published: April 5, 2023
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As students begin to move off campus, some have began to choose groceries over having a campus meal plan.

“Chicken Tender Thursdays are definitely the highlight of my week at Sadler Dining Hall,” freshman Sadie Jones said. The love of Thursdays at Sadler is a common feeling among freshmen living near West Campus, and it shows how some students enjoy relying on the dining halls. However, as Syracuse students progress through their time on campus and begin to move out of dorms, they must compare the convenience that the on-campus dining centers offer versus the price of groceries.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that key food items such as produce, meat and dairy products have risen 5.3%, 6.8% and 12.3% in price in the last year, respectively. These price increases are adding up to a heftier grocery bill, leaving some SU students to consider if it’s more sensible to budget their trips to the store or pay for a meal plan upfront.

Syracuse meal plans can range from $2,120 to $4,025 per semester, with the recently added and newly popular meal plan, Blue Unlimited, starting at $3,825 for every term. The cheapest block meal plan, which provides 85 meal swipes per semester, costs roughly $530 per month.

According to educationdata.org, the average price for groceries paid by a college student in New York is $377. With giving up the freedom of choosing your own meals when going to the dining halls, is this approximate $150 difference worth the avoidance of transportation and time it takes to obtain groceries?

Syracuse senior Moonya Reszytniak finds the variety to choose from in grocery stores worth the price.

“While my bill would slightly increase, I find groceries usually to have a better quality than the dining hall.” Reszytniak said.

Some Syracuse students claim that they would rather cook than rely on the dining hall. South Campus resident Mara Bowes said she believes that the dining hall has a few good options but prefers eating at her apartment.

“Having my own kitchen on South Campus, I really don’t find it necessary to have a meal plan when I can cook my own food,” Bowes said.

Many students said they prefer convenience over price. SU sophomore Elizabeth Gelber attempted to cancel her meal plan because of the inconvenience of going to the dining hall while living on South Campus. While Gelber said she believes the dining hall has a good variety of food selections, having a kitchen and being a busy college student just becomes a more suitable match.

“I don’t remember ever really having an issue with the dining halls,” Gelber said. “I usually found that there was a pretty diverse selection ranging from gluten-free, to vegetarian and even special options for different cultural and religious holidays. However, I actually switched out of my tiny meal plan this semester because I wasn’t getting adequate use out of mine last semester.”

Gelber said she spends roughly $300 or $400 at the grocery store a month, a very average price for college students according to the Education Data Initiative.

While you don’t always realize how quickly things add up,” Gelber said.“I think the prices I pay are pretty standard. I think some produce is overpriced but that could be because it is out of season or not native to Syracuse compared to a lot of easily grown things that I find at home (California).”

The price of groceries continues to grow across the upstate New York community, but this is not deterring Syracuse University students with the means for cooking from continuing to purchase their own food.

Although the price of an egg carton is up almost two dollars nationwide, we see students across Syracuse’s campus committed to investing in the array of nutritious and tasty options that local stores have to offer.