Credit: Claire Lorimor / Mustang News

Thousands of dollars are left unused at the end of each year from dining plans. That leftover money goes back into Cal Poly.

Campus Dining, part of the Cal Poly Corporation, received $334,144 from the dining dollars leftover from the 2021-2022 academic year.

“As a nonprofit University Auxiliary, all money that Cal Poly Corporation makes goes back into the campus,” Campus Dining spokesperson Aaron Lambert wrote in an email.

According to Lambert, over the past 10 years, the Cal Poly Corporation spent $80 million on projects to improve campus buildings and infrastructure such as Doerr Family Field, Vista Grande, the dining facility in the University Union and the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation. 

“That is not typical — that is a lot of money,” Lambert said.

The Cal Poly Corporation is also working on developing faculty and staff housing, expanding Technology Park and rebuilding Swanton Pacific Ranch.

Starting this year, if continuing students want to keep their leftover dining dollars for the next year, they now have the choice of purchasing a new meal plan with options ranging from $250 to $2,250 for the year. The remaining funds would roll over to the next year with the purchase of one of these plans.

Out of the 4,655 students that had a first-year dining plan last year, 3,872 had money left over, with an average of $227 remaining. Lambert said 2,400 of those students purchased a new meal plan.

Students can also donate dining dollars through the Mustang Meal Share program. 

The meal voucher program is a resource offered by the Office of the Dean of Students that gives students with extreme financial need $75 per quarter to buy food at Vista Grande, Campus Market, Red Radish, Mustang Station and Poly Canyon Market.

Donations made through the Mustang Meal Share program are the main source of funding for the Meal Voucher Program. 

“It’s students helping students,” Dean of Students Joy Pederson said.

While in the past there has been a limit to how much money students could donate to the Mustang Meal Share program to ensure students wouldn’t accidentally give away all their money when they need it, that limit has been taken off this year, Pederson said.

Much like the regular meal plans, the money from the Meal Voucher program is put directly on a student’s PolyCard, and funds roll over to the next quarter but not to the next year. 

Any meal voucher funds remaining at the end of the year go back into the program to be reallocated to other students in need, Pederson said. 

According to the 2022 Basic Needs Report, 39% of Cal Poly students experience low or very low food security. The Meal Voucher program is just one of the ways Cal Poly’s Basic Needs Initiative is working to address this issue.