CulinArt unveils unlimited meal plan


Students will have the option to eat an unlimited amount of meals next year on campus.

CulinArt is introducing two new meal plans that give students the option to have 19 meals per week or an unlimited amount of meals.

The new food service provider currently offers meal plans that include 10 and 14 meals per week, but serves a total 19 meals per week.

CulinArt introduced the new options to the university, which decided to move forward with the additional meal plans. Food Service Director Kristy Weiss said CulinArt wanted to give students the ability to eat all 19 meals the company offers.

“You want to give them the option to have a meal plan that, if they want to eat on campus for every meal, they have that option,” Weiss said.

Dean of Student Life Michael Gieseke arrived at Point Park about 10 years ago and was surprised the university didn’t offer a meal plan that matched the amount of meals served. As it currently stands, students with 10 or 14 meals have to decide what meals to skip or have to eat elsewhere throughout the week.

“We’re not offering you that ability not to make that choice,” Gieseke said.

But not offering more than 14 meals per week made sense at the beginning of the Aramark era. Gieseke described the Point Park at the time of his arrival as a “suitcase campus.”

Only 691 students lived on campus in 2006-07, many of whom would leave for the weekends. That number currently stands at 1,039, according to the Point Park Factbook.

With the increase in residential students, transformation of Downtown and campus life in recent years and a new food service provider, Gieseke said the timing made sense to introduce expanded meal plans.

“The weekends are more robust; there are many more things happening,” Gieseke said. “I think a lot of people thought now would be the time for that option.”

Freshman theater performance and practices major Sarah Carson currently has the meal plan that offers 14 meals per week. She typically skips breakfast or uses flex dollars in the cafe.

She said if she were an incoming freshman, she would strongly consider the new unlimited or 19 meals per week options.

“I guess it depends on their financial situation,” Carson said. “If they think they can afford for it, go for it. I think it would be more beneficial.”

The unlimited meal plan that includes $150 flex dollars will cost $3,370 per semester, while the 19 meals per week plan with $200 flex dollars will cost $3,150 per semester.

Neither meal plan currently offered to Lawrence and Thayer Hall residents will increase next year. The 14 meals per week plan with $200 flex dollars will cost students $2,870 per semester, and the 10 meals plan with $275 flex dollars will cost $2,680 per semester.

The unlimited meal plan will allow students to use multiple meal swipes during the same dining period, an option prevented by all other meal plans.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Keith Paylo said the students and parents have questioned the policy in the past.

“We have also gotten feedback from students that if they want to eat breakfast at 7:00 and they want to go back at 9:30, if you have that breakfast swipe used, you can’t use it,” Paylo said. “[The unlimited meal plan] could appeal to those who believe that they need a more robust meal plan.”

Both deans said the new plans are more geared towards incoming freshman, but are available to all students.

It’s another step in the transition for CulinArt, which took over for Aramark in the months leading up to the 2016-17 academic year. The company has a better understanding now of Point Park’s culture and is still working out the kinks that come with a first-year company.

There are kinks that Paylo said the CulinArt management has been flexible with during the time of transition that also included major renovations to the Point Café and dining hall.

“They have been willing to adjust to virtually anything that comes their way,” Paylo said. “That alone for me says, not only has it been a good year, it’s been a great year.”

Gieseke has been impressed with the new communication between the CulinArt management and the university.

He said they interact on a consistent basis and are open to student concerns, something that was lacking with the previous food service provider.

“We lost faith in Aramark,” Gieseke said. “We didn’t believe they would make things better. Our relationship with CulinArt’s management is that much better than it was at the end of Aramark’s time with us.”

Weiss echoed those statements and encouraged students to take advantage of her open-door policy.

Her office is located in the Point Café beside the salad station. She said students can bring concerns straight to her, or they can send her an email to [email protected]

“Our main goal is to always make the students happy,” Weiss said. “Anytime a student comes to us and something needs changed or fixed, we will always do whatever we can to make it happen for them.”

Students can purchase a meal plan through the
Office of Student Life. Once purchased, students have until the end of the second week of the fall semester to change their meal plan.