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What to Do With Your Leftover Meal Plan Money

Most BC students are familiar with the entity that is BC Dining here on campus. Students’ money is split between a Residential Meal Plan and Residential Dining Bucks. For freshmen and most sophomores, a dining plan is mandatory because students don’t have access to full kitchens.

BC Dining is operated by Boston College itself with over 200 full-time employees. Unlike other universities in Boston and around the country, BC Dining is not contracted out to a third-party company. This means that dining employees have the same benefits as other staff and faculty on campus.  

The mandatory meal plan consists of about $3,000 on the Residential Meal Plan and $175 in Residential Dining Bucks. The meal plan money can be used at the three main dining halls, Carney’s (“Mac” or “McElroy”), Lower Live, and Stuart Dining Hall (“Stu”). Additionally, those funds can be spent at Eagle’s Nest or Lyons, including Late Night. On the other hand, the Residential Dining Bucks are valid at locations like CoRo Cafe, Hillside, and Tully Cafe, as well as other specialty markets and coffee shops on campus. 

Beth Emery, Director of Dining Services at BC, discussed how the dining plan is designed as a bell curve, with some students ending up on either end of the spectrum with too much or too little money. But the majority are in the middle with just enough for each semester. She discussed how at other universities where she’s worked, they have an unlimited swipes system, but that means students who eat less are subsidizing those who eat more and that this pay-per-item system allows for more student flexibility. Additionally, Emery commented that, “The university has asked dining to break even and we base that all on our mandatory meal plan.” This is why dining locations like Tully Cafe or the Chocolate Bar can be found on the Residential Dining Bucks rather than the mandatory meal plan. 

Come April and May, there are two kinds of BC students: the one who is desperate for dining money and the one who has more money left than they could ever dream of using. Not being able to reclaim leftover dining dollars is certainly a source of frustration for students and families, but there are some creative ways to use up the last of those funds before the semester comes to a close. For those of you who find yourselves with hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars sitting in your accounts, here are some tips for you.

Farmers’ Market

BC dining and Real Food recently started hosting weekly farmer’s markets outside of Lower Dining Hall where students can purchase fresh produce using their dining dollars from their mandatory dining plan. Students can use their extra dining money to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and more from local producers including Ward’s Berry Farm, Commonwealth Kitchen, and 88 Acres. Be on the lookout for more farmer’s markets at the end of the semester, where BC students will be able to use their extra money to support community farmers. 

Pop Up Events and Culinary Showcases

At each of the three dining halls, BC Dining hosts pop up events and culinary showcases regularly. These are opportunities for students to try new foods from different cultures they may never have been exposed to before. There is generally a higher price point on these meals, so it’s a great way to use up some dining money. Keep an eye out for these types of events on the BC Dining Instagram page. 

Pizza Party

If you have enough money leftover, you can treat your floor to a pizza party through BC Dining. At any point (although preferably a quieter time of day), students can go to one of the cashiers at any of the dining halls and ask to speak with a manager. Students can order as many pizzas as they’d like and use their mandatory meal plan dollars to pay. 

BC Bakery

Similarly to the pizza, students can go to the BC Bakery located in the back of Eagle’s Nest. There, the bakery, with sufficient notice, can make platters of cookies, cupcakes, and even cakes made to order. If your friend or roommate's birthday is coming up, or if you just need a cake to get you through finals season, head over to the bakery and pick up a sweet treat using your dining dollars.

BC Dining is always open to student suggestions or feedback. They welcome hearing from students via email or by speaking with a manager at one of the dining locations. Emery wants students to know that BC Dining isn’t scary or untouchable; rather, they want to speak with as many students as possible and get to know their thoughts and personal experiences. So, if you have any unanswered questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to BC Dining and make sure your voice is heard.

Can usually be found listening to The Strokes or Taylor Swift. Spends far too much time eating ice cream or rewatching the same 3 TV shows and would probably rather be at the beach right now.