State of the Onion Address: GSU Dining Services a Step Above the Rest

Ian Leonard

 So many college students today are doing their best to be more fiscally responsible. The cost of school only seems to be going up, so we all have to pinch pennies every now and again. So one must wonder, with all of the expenses that students face today, why do so many universities require thousand dollar dining plans for freshman, even for those who don’t wish to utilize their services? Now I personally appreciate and utilize Eagle Dining on almost a daily basis now, even without being required to have a plan. That being said however, obviously anyone would wonder if their money is ‘going the distance’ so to speak. So I set out to analyze our dining services and compare to what other comparable schools offer.

 Let’s start with prices. Our freshman meal plan prices range from $1,725 to 1,875. Both of these plans offer 7 day access to the dining halls, as well as one hundred dining dollars and five guest passes, and three hundred dining dollars and eight guest passes respectively. You can add up to 700 more dollars for Eagle Express which can be used at well over 20 on and off campus locations.

 Now let’s compare this with some other Georgia schools. Georgia Tech’s freshman meal plan cost $2,248, and also offers unlimited 7 day access to their dining locations, as well as one hundred dining dollars, and one hundred and fifty dollars of their version of retail dining dollars, with 19 participating locations.

 The University of Georgia has freshman meal plans ranging in cost from $1,877 for five day access, to $1,978 for seven day access. You can also upgrade to add retail dining dollars, as much $275, redeemable at over 10 locations.

 Finally let’s take a look at Georgia State. They offer two dining plans, priced competitively at $1,797 for five day access or $1,898 for seven day access. Now that sounds a little lackluster, compared to the rest of the plans we have been showcasing, but that’s only because it actually is. Seriously, that’s the whole dining plan. So regardless of how you feel about Eagle Dining, just be glad that you aren’t a panther.

So, our plan is priced pretty well, so what? You still have no choice but to pay for it, how can you be sure that you’re getting the all of the bang out of your bucks? Well, I recently sat down with the directors of Eagle Dining, and talked to them about all of the improvements they have made, and how they plan to improve as they continue towards the future.

 I spoke with Jeff Yawn, executive director of Eagle Dining, Greg Crawford, director of residential dining, and Mark Braswell, director of retail brands and catering. There are a lot of exciting plans on the horizon for all of us here at Georgia Southern. As many of you may already know a new Gus Mart recently opened up in the I.T. Building. Braswell noted this was added to increase their representation on that side of campus, as well as to compliment the Market Street Deli that also currently resides in the I.T. Building. But that’s not all, there are exciting changes coming to Market Street Deli as well. Starting this semester they will begin utilizing freshly sliced Boar’s Head products in the food, as well as offering students the chance to purchase these Boar’s Head meats and cheeses by the quarter or half pound for themselves.

 They will also be adding, souvenir products to concessions at sporting events. Fans can now purchase, refillable souvenir cups and popcorn buckets. thirty two and two hundred ounces respectively. Freshens at the R.A.C. will also begin serving Keurig brand coffee and selling some of the merchandise offered at the University Store and Tech Corner, such as clothes, water bottles and ear buds for the students convenience.

 Also they have been working closely with the center for sustainability, providing them with compost, and in return the center has been using that compost to begin growing produce for dining services. This continues a long standing trend of dining services collaborating with other organizations on campus. They work closely with the Student Government Association and even have a standing bi-weekly meeting with the SGA, and collaborated with them to create the newest dining plan option, Budget Bucks. They are a leading employer of students on campus, with over 300 student employees, and a large portion of dining services leadership is comprised of Georgia Southern graduates, including the three head directors I spoke with. They are present at freshman orientation every year, and their nutrition director, Brittany Parham, is perpetually available to speak with students about dietary restrictions and allergies.

 Naturally there have been a couple bumps in the road. Yawn mentioned that part of the reason  he worked closely with the SGA to bring about the Budget Bucks plan, because he knew that so many students missed the old dining plans. Yawn commented that the plan was made for students who wanted to manage their money more easily but still have a little flexibility in their budget. They have comment boxes set up at all dining halls and take student input and responses very seriously.

 In addition to all of these new features there are more projects constantly in the works with dining services, Braswell has noted that they are working on the possibility of getting food trucks on campus for students. They are also continually making strides to utilize products from local companies, and obviously improving quality is always a priority.

 At first I didn’t fully understand all of the nuanced influences that Eagle Dining has had on my student experience. It may not be perfect, but then again, what is? After doing a little research, I have to say I’m quite quite content with the current state of our dining services.

What are some things you would love to see from our dining services Eagles? Tweet us your suggestions @TheGeorgeAnne. We just may show your responses in the next edition of the George-Anne!