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Vegan, gluten-free meals driving up costs at MnSCU universities

ST. PAUL - Students at six state universities will pay about 11 percent more for meal plans next year as food vendors meet growing demand for vegan, gluten-free and other dietary needs and preferences.

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ST. PAUL – Students at six state universities will pay about 11 percent more for meal plans next year as food vendors meet growing demand for vegan, gluten-free and other dietary needs and preferences.

The board of trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities on Tuesday authorized its six residential universities to negotiate five-year food service contracts with the vendors chosen by students and others.

The two largest have chosen new vendors: Southwest Minnesota State will switch from Aramark to Chartwells and St. Cloud State from Sodexo to Chartwells.

Winona State will stay with Chartwells; Bemidji State with Aramark, and MSU Moorhead and MSU Mankato with Sodexo.

Brian Yolitz, system associate vice chancellor for facilities, said the average food plan will cost students about $2,900 per year this fall, up from $2,603 this school year.

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The cost hike reflects a "growing complexity of student expectations," he said.

Besides vegan and allergy-conscious offerings, Yolitz said students want more locally grown and GMO-free options, and they want access to dining halls at more hours of the day.

Students will get more meal plan options, too, he said. There used to be no more than four different plans to choose from, he said; next year, there will be as many as 16.

The six universities spent $26.3 million on food service last school year.

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