Champion’s Choice is cooking up new meal-plan options for non-athletes. The dining hall is now restricted to athletes and meal-plan holders who upgrade their plans, prompting concern and disapproval from some students.
If a student wants to eat at the dining hall, they must upgrade to a “Plus” meal plan which is an additional $80 on top of the price of their standard meal plan. Athletes are automatically given access to Champion’s Choice, no matter the plan they choose.
Jessice Cicalese, USF Dining’s marketing director, said the change came after a shift in demand for the dining halls, as well as the nutritional and high-protein food selections at Champion’s Choice already tailored toward athletes.
“Due to the location of the facility, USF student-athletes, Athletics faculty and coaching staff have always been the predominant population at [Champion’s Choice]. When The Village opened in fall 2017, traffic on campus shifted largely to the north side of campus toward The Hub and Argos Exchange,” she said.
“After many meetings and conversations between USF leadership and USF Athletics, we decided rather than to close [Champion’s Choice], we would open for select times during the day that would provide the right level of service that was tailored to the current level of demand. Champion’s Choice is a dining facility for our student-athletes that allows convenience for flexibility around training times, pregame meals, travel meals and more.”
She said the decision was also due in part to providing a more focused dining experience for athletes to provide meals more tailored to their nutritional needs.
“The decision behind the transition is largely due to the changing culture in collegiate athletics and greater appreciation for the impact that nutrition plays in performance and recovery from training and competition,” she said.
“In respect to tailoring options to meet demand, the operating hours and menu options have been expanded to provide additional variety and options that both meet collegiate athlete nutritional requirements and offer additional options for the ever-expanding community.”
On the USF Dining meal plans website, students have the option to purchase the Bull Block 60 Plus plan, which is $960, to receive access to all campus dining locations including Champion’s Choice. A standard Bull Block 60 meal plan costs $880, but restricts access for non-athlete students to Champion’s Choice.
If students want to upgrade their meal plan to a “Plus” plan, Cicalese said they must do so by contacting the Meal Plan Office, located in MSC 1502. The current operating hours of Champion’s Choice are 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, so students who do purchase the upgrade will have a brief time period throughout the week to utilize it.
Some students are voicing their concerns with the change, including senior Samantha Norstrem, who said the dining hall should be more accessible to everyone as athletes aren’t the only ones who like to eat healthier and exercise.
“I miss the healthier options. Even if I’m not affiliated with the athletics on campus, I still like to work out and stay in shape,” she said. “I’m not satisfied with the way the dining halls are advertised on the campus tour, including the location, variety of options and inclusiveness for alternative diets, as it is almost false advertising at this point.”
Norstrem said the additional charges to eat at Champion’s Choice have personally impacted her decision to buy a meal plan again.
“I don’t have a meal plan now. [Champion’s Choice] was the only one I would go to so there was really no point in buying a plan. I’d rather cook those healthier options in the dorm because the other dining halls aren’t [great].”
Students are also upset with the additional charge as, according to senior health sciences major Steven Segalin, the quality of Champion’s Choice outmatched the other campus dining options.
“When I was on campus, I loved Champion’s Choice. They have the freshest and most seasoned food of all the dining halls and I went whenever I was able to,” he said. “I think it’s cheating the students who pay for a standard meal plan to not include that with what they already pay.”
Sophomore Cesar Molano said the move feels like an attempt to charge students more money with little reasoning.
“I understand the university is only looking for more ways to raise money, however, what they did with Champion’s Choice makes it look like they are taking advantage of COVID in order to increase their prices,” he said.
“I feel like they should open Champion’s Choice just as it was before the pandemic. The pandemic produced a lot of changes everywhere, however, I think restricting student access to healthy and filling meals is not a change that is necessary or one that is helpful to anyone.”
Conveniency is also an issue for junior Kara Granholm, as she said the new change will force her to make longer walks to access campus dining.
“Students shouldn’t have to pay extra for a dining hall,” she said. “It is right next to my classes so it would be a convenient option rather than going all the way to The Hub or Juniper.”
The changes most likely won’t be going away anytime in the near future. Granholm said the changes may present future issues with other campus dining halls.
“I don’t agree with the extra fee associated with Champion’s Choice because USF is a big campus with lots of students, and the available dining halls are often packed and run out of food,” she said.