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Are the PLUS Swipes worth it? A guide to picking the best meal plan for you

Meal Plan Chase Food
Fried chicken and bacon biscuit from Chase Dining Hall, one of two dining halls on campus. Photo taken on April 18, 2019.

Eating on campus is easily one of the best parts of the day as a student here at UNC. Whether using a meal swipe to enjoy a bite to eat in one of our dining halls, or using a PLUS Swipe to grab something quick from the Bottom of Lenoir, there is bound to be the perfect option for your taste buds and your schedule. 

But deciding which meal plan is right for you … now that’s a little trickier. Currently, Carolina Dining Services offers three meal plans: the Unlimited Plan, the Block Plans and the Off Campus Plans. 

Both the Block Plans and Off Campus Plans allow students to individually decide the number of meal swipes they find best fits their eating habits. Students can choose between 200, 160, 120 and 100 swipes per semester for the Block Plans. The Off Campus Plans offer 50 or 35 swipes per semester. 

Much like its name, the Unlimited Plan allows students to eat as often as they please, in either dining hall, throughout the semester. 

In addition to swipes into the dining halls, all on campus meal plans come with 35 PLUS Swipes, giving students more choice when deciding where to eat. 

Scott Myers, director of auxiliary services at Carolina Dining Services, said most first-year students choose the Unlimited Plan because of its security. 

“You don’t have to worry about where you’re going to eat,” Myers said. “You always have a meal available for you.” 

While more expensive overall, the Unlimited Plan offers students the best value per meal swipe. It also includes 10 guest meals, which can be used for parents, siblings, relatives or friends during their visits to campus. 

Myers said while the Unlimited Plan is the best value for incoming students, eating on campus bring students across campus together. 

“It’s the same attraction that all of the meal plans give, is that you have a place you can commune with other students because the dining halls are a unique experience for students,” Myers said. 

Thomas Marshall, a rising senior, has found the Block 160 plan works best for him. With the Block Plan, Marshall is able to eat about two meals a day in the dining hall, and about two meals a week using his PLUS Swipes. 

“I usually on average use two PLUS Swipes a week,” Marshall said. “So, it’s about two swipes at Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A or anything at Bottom of Lenoir, and then the rest of the meals at Lenoir or Rams (Chase Hall).” 

For new students deciding which meal plan is best for them, Marshall said it comes between “whether or not you value convenience or money.” 

“If you buy a little bit (of a) bigger meal plan, then I would recommend using your PLUS Swipes because you’re going to get tired of Lenoir at some point," Marshall said. 

But for students who value saving a little money, Marshall recommends getting a smaller meal plan, and then using cash or card to buy any meals outside the dining hall. 

"Your average meal swipe costs $10 to $12, whereas the meals you’re getting at each of the places that use PLUS Swipes is about $8,” Marshall said. 

For students planning on joining Greek life on campus, it’s important to check and see how the sorority or fraternity handles meals for its members. Rising senior Cara Siliakus opted to keep her Block Plan after joining a sorority, just in case she wanted to grab a quick bite to eat in between her classes. 

“Sophomore year, I joined a sorority and reduced my Meal Plan, because our meal plan in-house, you have to get it when you join, it’s a required thing,” Cara Siliakus said. 

With meals provided only during the week, Siliakus found it helpful to keep her On-Campus meal plan to use in between classes and on the weekends. 

“I found it useful to have as a back-up,” Siliakus said, “even though I would most of the time eat at the sorority house.” 

Students can register, or adjust, fall 2019 meal plans until Sept. 3, 2019.

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