Cal State Fullerton requires all campus residents to purchase a meal plan offered by the university, even though a California state law gives students the option to apply for an exemption. However, no student at CSUF has received or attempted for an exemption.
The leasing contract between future residents in the residence halls of CSUF and the office of Housing and Residence states that “all residents must select one of the two meals plans. There is no opting out for any reason.”
The California state law titled “Required Purchase of Meals” gives President Mildred García the authority to require all residents to purchase meals at the Gastronome, the student dining hall on campus.
However, the same law states “If a licensee shows good cause, the president may excuse the licensee from purchasing meals at facilities on the campus.”
Elizabeth Chapin, a CSU representative, said the “good cause” noted in the code is defined and determined by the campus.
Practices vary among the 23 campuses.
Larry Martin, interim director of Housing and Residence Life at CSUF, said he was not aware of the state law.
Martin, who has been interim director since May, said in his experience there has never been a student who has tried to opt out of a meal plan.
Now that he is aware of the California law, Martin said meal plans will still continue to be required for those students who choose to live on campus. However, Martin said concerned students may contact him to begin a conversation about the required meal plans.
“In an ideal world I would hope we would be able to work something out, but if need be we could … work through myself and then through the vice president to the president, if need be,” Martin said.
David Forgues, the student affairs’ chief of operations at CSUF, said each request for meal plan exemption will be evaluated individually.
“When students sign a license agreement, they agree to a package of services that includes housing, utilities, programming and a meal plan,” Forgues said. “If a student would like to request any changes to the agreement, they are welcome to do so, again by contacting the housing office.”
Martin said the meal plans were a part of CSUF’s plan to sustain the Gastronome, which was created in 2010 to support the university’s new residence halls.
He said the university’s business model for housing and residence life relies on the fact that student residents have to purchase a meal plan.
“Dining at the Gastronome is required as part of the on-campus housing experience,” Martin said. “Having the opportunity to share meals together is integral to building community within the population of students who choose to live on campus.”
There are 1,904 students living within the housing community with meal plans, and 99 students living off campus with meals plans.
Residents sign lease contracts that require licensees to choose a meal plan with access to the the Gastronome.
Freshmen students who live in the residence halls are required to choose between the largest meal plans—the five-day or seven-day plan.
Students who live in the apartments on campus may choose a block meal plan option, which comes with $200 in declining balance credits that may be used at the Community Market and Late Night Cafe.
Residents use their meal plans about 3,500 times each day—a combined total from breakfast, lunch and dinner on Monday through Thursday.
About 2,500 meal passes are used on Fridays and 9,000 meal passes are used on Saturdays and Sundays per day.
Students with a kitchen in their apartment are also required to purchase a meal plan at CSUF.
Woaria Rashid, 19, a communications major, said the meal plan is a waste of money.
Rashid purchased the 80-block meal plan that gives her 80 meals to use at the specified dining facilities. Block Voluntary Plans expire at the end of the academic year.
She said she eats at the Gastronome two to three times a week.
“This is my second year living in the apartments with a kitchen but with the meal plan and the housing tuition I think I may have to live off campus next time,” Rashid said. “I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Cal State Chico requires students with apartments equipped with kitchens to only purchase a minimized meal plan and Cal State Northridge does not require meal plans for students who have apartments equipped with kitchens.
CSUF is one of 18 CSU schools that requires students to have some sort of meal plan.
Rachel Tafoya, the occupancy analyst in the Housing and Residential Education office at Cal State Channel Islands, said students may be granted a meal plan exemption due to medical or religious reasons.
Students at Cal State Channel Islands undergo an application process for the exemption by a certain deadline.
For example, they must provide documentation confirming a dietary need, attaching correspondence from their attending physician and documentation on the condition they are suffering from.
The Cal State Channel Islands dining program states that “most requests initially presented for exemption are able to be accommodated by our food service program. In rare cases, we are unable to meet some or all of an individual’s needs; in those cases, we grant a full or partial meal plan exemption.”
Kailey Demaret, Daniel Ostrin and Ethan Hawkes contributed to this report.