Come September, Wilfrid Laurier University may be offering a voluntary meal plan option for students at the Brantford campus.

According to a report Roly Webster delivered at the last board meeting, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) has been working with the University on both a long-range vision and a short-term solution for developing a meal plan in Brantford. Webster, executive director and the COO of WLUSU, explained that the short term solution will involve students voluntarily putting money on their OneCards to be used at a selection of local food venues in the downtown area.

“We would promote it to all the students, staff and faculty on that campus,” he continued. “And specifically to students that are in residence there. Then concurrently we would look at a similar food service solution that would be mandatory going forward.”

This mandatory solution would prospectively be in place for the 2014-15 school year. What this solution will look like has yet to be determined.

“As we evolve our residence portfolio in Brantford that will give us the opportunity to learn from that experience,” explained Dan Dawson, AVP of student services at Laurier. “So I think what we’re looking to do is to get this initial stage in place and then learn from that and try to really get feedback from the student customers as to what they’re looking for and what gaps may exist in the service opportunity and then try to build the program from there.”

They will also be looking at other campuses that have a similar demographic to Brantford’s to explore their food service solutions.

“It may be more appropriate for Brantford to have a food court as opposed to a central dining facility,” Dawson went on. “But we don’t want to pre-judge that, we want to try to use some specific evidence to make that decision.”

All residences at Laurier Brantford are apartment style, which have kitchenettes, so up to this point there hasn’t been a need for a meal plan. There also hasn’t been a big enough student population for it to be viable.

Dawson explained that recently, however, the demand has increased.

“Through both our Students’ Union and through our residence community people are starting to ask,” Dawson said. “It probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise that a lot of incoming first year students don’t really have a lot of cooking experience and they’re looking for some variety and some opportunities that are available.”

But according to Breanne Pitton, a fifth year concurrent education student who has experience both living and donning in residence, a meal plan is unnecessary as students will eventually need to learn how to cook anyway.

She also believes that it’s a perk for the campus.

“We’re getting so many new buildings that we’re becoming like every other university. This is what sets us apart,” she said, referring to the fact that there isn’t a mandatory meal plan.

Dawson explained that, according to a survey done by WLUSU in April, “there is a desire to create more of a sense of community by having people go out together to eat in locations that would be designated as being affiliated with Laurier”. Webster also commented that it’s an opportunity to integrate with local businesses.

“I’m excited,” said Webster. “I’m happy with the progress we’ve made and I’m happy with the support the university is providing in moving forward with this.” – See more at: http://www.thecord.ca/new-food-option-for-laurier-brantford/#sthash.GXYsGDEj.dpuf

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