Meal Plan Working Group

The Division of Student Life is committed to strengthening the house dining program to better serve our community and to enhance MIT’s living and learning environment. Potential solutions will be fair, transparent, and phased into practice over time.

Working Group Results
The working group completed its work in March 2020. This FAQ explains their work and the process of outreach that helped the group reach its final recommendations. This presentation was given at the Meal Plan Community Forum on March 2.

News Coverage
- The Tech, March 5, 2020: Meal Plan Working Group Holds Forum
- The Tech, Februaruy 27, 2020: MIT Dining to increase meal plan commitment minimums for Class of 2024
- The Tech, November 26, 2019: Meal Plan Working Group discusses dining costs at DormCon meeting
- The Tech, November 13, 2019: Meal Plan Working Group to develop a new meal plan model
- The Tech, November 7, 2019: Generating house dining plan ideas in the context of program challenges and constraints

Create a meal plan encompassing all six residential dining houses that offers high-quality and nutritious food, that fosters community-building in and among the residence halls, and that ensures long-term financial sustainability. Do you have an idea for how to improve the meal plan? Please share it with us through this online form!

Challenges & Constraints

  • Value and quality balance: A dining program improves with the investment of funds customarily generated by meal plan sales. At the same time, our plans are among the least-expensive when compared to peers and area colleges.
  • The satisfaction cycle: MIT’s dining system runs at a deficit, making re-investment difficult. This leads to a decrease in the dining plan’s perceived value, an increase in dissatisfaction among mandatory subscribers, and further limits participation and the dining program’s sustainability.

Why do we face these challenges?

  1. High operating costs: Foodservice facilities are expensive to run, especially in the greater Boston area. Also, unlike independent or franchise restaurant operators, MIT stipulates that all Bon Appetit staff (in dining halls, retail operations, and catering facilities) will make a living wage.
  2. Limited participation: Many other colleges require students living on campus to subscribe to a meal plan. MIT has a multi-tier approach that offers meal plan flexibility for upper-level students in dining houses. We also have cook-for-yourself residences without dining halls or dining plan requirements. At the same time, the low number of meal plan subscribers and increasing instances when students eat in non-dining facilities drives up per-person meal plan delivery costs.
  3. Proximity of dining options, barriers to quick meal-service, and meal-swipe usage: Findings from the 2017 dining study indicated that students prefer to eat breakfast or lunch closer to their classes or labs. For example, some subscribers report that Maseeh’s Howard Dining Hall is too far away from their academic activities to eat lunch, or that it is too crowded.