Western Illinois University’s Sodexo contract changes student meal plans

BY TYLER WALLACE, NEWS REPORTER

MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3) – Western Illinois University’s new contract with Sodexo, the third-party dining services company, changed student meal plans this semester, despite charging the same amount on bills to students.

John Biernbaum, Associate Vice President of Student Services, said only $760 is available to spend on the $1900 meal plan because overhead prices were removed up front. He said the previous meal plan contract was not sustainable.

“The meal plan we were on was losing money because it was subsidizing the University Union,” Biernbaum said. “We want students to have facts, but we also have to have a meal plan that doesn’t lose money.”

This removal of fixed and labor charges from the register reduced dining hall prices, but Union and C-Store prices remain the same. Biernbaum said this is designed to encourage students to eat in the dining halls. 

“We could’ve said…you can’t use any of your money over there [the Union and C-Stores], but we knew that would really frustrate students,” Biernbaum said, “so we incentivize them by lowering the prices by 60 percent in the dining halls.”

Other changes made by the new Sodexo contract include the removal of refunds and more flexible catering options. After surveying students, meal plan balances will now carry over to the following semesters, while campus organizations have more options such as Jimmy John’s and Domino’s for Sodexo catering.

Biernbaum said a marketing campaign will roll out soon to promote the plan to incentivize students to eat in the dining halls to make meal plans last.

“We’re going to get a bunch of… marketing material out to help educate students,” Biernbaum said. “So hopefully they’ll see that a lot, and that’ll help them.”