Even though Yale Dining offers a variety of meal plans and food options for undergraduates, some students believe the plans are overpriced.

Yale Dining offers three different meal plans for students living on campus, and most students are on the Full Meal Plan, according to Sue Castaldi, associate director of finance and administration for Yale Dining. The plan costs $3,400 per semester and allows students to have 21 meals per week, which means students pay about $15 per meal. The other two meal plans offered are the Any-14 Meal Plan, which includes 14 meals per week as well as $150 worth of dining points, and the Anytime Meal Plan, which includes unlimited meals and $70 worth of dining points. The Any-14 Meal Plan costs $3,400 per semester and the Anytime Meal Plan costs $3,470 per semester.

All nine students interviewed said they were on the Full Meal Plan, and six said they believe the meal plan is overpriced.

“I think it’s definitely on the more expensive side,” Ben Zhou ’21 said. “If you think about places like all-you-can-eat buffets … even some of the more expensive restaurants charge $15 per meal. Eating at your school’s dining hall shouldn’t be more expensive than getting a meal at a restaurant.”

Seven of the nine students said they generally do not eat all 21 meals per week. Several of the students added that because they consistently skip meals throughout the week, they do not believe the quantity of food they eat is worth the amount they pay for it.

In an email to the News, Castaldi said there are many factors that contribute to Yale Dining’s financial model, including facility maintenance, food costs and labor costs. She added that because of Yale’s commitment to “sustainability, high-quality ingredients and excellent employee wage and benefit levels,” it is very difficult to decrease the costs of the meal plans.

Still, in addition to their broader complaints, many students expressed dissatisfaction about alternative lunch swipe options like Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe and KBT Cafe. The Any-14 Meal Plan and the Anytime Meal Plan come with dining points that students can spend at these locations. And under the Full Meal Plan, students can buy up to $9 worth of food at Durfee’s if they do not use their lunch swipe at a dining hall.

“Sometimes, I go to Durfee’s, since it’s a substitute for lunch,” Chrissy Hart ’20 said. “I think they have some pretty good things there, but the amount of money they give us should be the same as how much a meal in the dining hall costs, not less.”

Many of the students surveyed also said they wished the Full Meal Plan was not mandatory for first years. Isabella Yang ’21 said Yale should give first years — like older Yale students — the freedom to choose whether or not to pay for the Full Meal Plan.

However, in her email to the News, Castaldi wrote that the Full Meal Plan is required for first years in order to foster “strong bonds and communities” within residential colleges.

Three of the nine students interviewed said the meal-plan costs are reasonable. Sarim Abbas ’20 cited the variety of foods available at every meal in the dining halls as one reason the plan is worth the money.

“If you’re going to a dining hall, there’s access to so many different kinds of food, so [the cost] is not too bad,” Abbas said.

She added that since there are so many dining halls available to undergraduates, eating is fairly convenient, making up for the high cost of meal plans.

Indeed, all nine students interviewed echoed the sentiment that dining halls are convenient and easily accessible, especially given the opening of the two new residential colleges this fall.

“It’s definitely very convenient now that they’ve added Pauli Murray and [Benjamin] Franklin, since I’m on Science Hill a lot,” Zhou said. “But I don’t know if that necessarily warrants $15 per meal.”

Yale Dining serves more than 3 million meals in its dining halls each year. 

Amber Hu | amber.hu@yale.edu