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A Guide to Eating At College
The start of college is right around the corner and many of you might be envisioning your student’s diet as burgers and pizzas and fries, oh my? Sure, we have been making meals for our kids for as long as we can remember. Before you get ready to go on a cooking frenzy, packaging and labeling items to send with them, stop. Because we assure you, college food choices have changed since many of us went to college. Today’s college campuses, in addition to offering burgers, pizza and fries, offer many healthy alternatives as well as meal plan options.
Freshman The Easy Way
For an incoming freshman who is living in the on-campus residence halls, meal plans are a requirement. My daughter lived on campus so she did sign up for the meal plan. It was a great way to meet other freshman and learn to make healthy choices. She also had a declining balance card that gave her other meal options.
There are various meal plans available which give your student meals in the Atlantic Dining hall or Flex Bucks. Flex Bucks work like a debit account, they are loaded onto your students Owl ID card, your student can then swipe their ID card at any of the dining locations across campus other than the main Atlantic dining hall. Each Meal Plan comes with a varying amount of Flex Bucks. Flex Bucks must be used in the semester the meal plan is purchased.
There are a variety of options when it comes to meal plans. The first plan is 19 meals per week, however no flex bucks, and your student must eat each meal in the Atlantic Dining hall. The remaining meal plans give your student between 7 and 15 meals a week with a varying amount of Flex Bucks according to each plan. The meal plans are purchased on a one-semester basis.
If your student is an upperclassman or a commuter student, Owl Bucks are a great option. Owl Bucks works like a debit card, it is a declining balance, and is tied to your student’s Owl ID card. This is perhaps the most flexible account for dining as you may deposit funds at any time, it is accepted at various places around campus, there is no minimum balance to maintain and the balance carries forward until you graduate or leave school. Owl Bucks can be used at any of these on-campus locations: Starbucks, Subway, the Atlantic dining hall, FAU pharmacy, Campus Bookstore, Outtakes Convenience store, Chick-Fil-a, Dunkin’s Donuts, and all restaurants in the Breezeway Café (Papa John’s, Einstein Bagels, Frescafe, Wendy’s, Chick n Grill, jow jing). Check their limited time offers for savings.
Before you buy gift cards to individual restaurants on campus, be aware that they do not accept them on campus.
The choice you make should entail a conversation between you and your student. We would recommend you familiarize yourself with how each program works. Go to FAU dining services to learn more.
If your student is adamantly opposed to signing up for a meal plan, they can head to any of the grocery stores by bus or car to purchase the food they need/want (see our blog on grocery stores) or choose amongst the many, many restaurants around town.
If cooking on their own works best for your student, rest assured most dorms have room for a small refrigerator and some do allow for microwaves (under 1500 watts). Many of the dorms also have a communal kitchen- but you will have to bring your own pots and pans.
If the meal plan or cooking for themselves is not working for them, while maybe not the healthiest option, students today can get almost any type of meal delivered directly to their dorms. Check out our Delivery blog to see all the companies that deliver food.
A Different Type of University Meal Plan
There is a whole new type of meal service that is becoming popular with students who can’t cook, don’t want to cook, don’t want to buy groceries and are looking for an easier, and healthier meal plan. Known as the meal kit industry, the premise is that they deliver pre-portioned, packaged meals delivered weekly right to your student’s door. Make sure you check out our blog on A College Student’s Guide to Meal Kits. Our interns tested out Blue Apron, Plated, Chef’d (Spoon University) and Hello Fresh.
Of course, you can always send them some of your home-cooked meals!