First-Year Dining Plans FAQ 2023-2024

What are dining plans?

Campus Dining offers a variety of dining plan options for students living on campus. Having a dining plan gives students the ease of not having to prepare meals so they can focus on their academics and student life. All components of any dining plan are accessed through the students’ PolyCard (student ID) for fast, convenient access.

Are dining plans mandatory for first-year students living on campus?

Campus Dining and University Housing policies require that all first-year students living on campus must have a dining plan for the full academic year. The Housing and Dining License can’t be modified or changed during any time. Please review the Housing and Dining License carefully before submitting the initial payment registration for the Housing and Dining License.

What are Dining Dollars?

Dining Dollars can be used for purchasing food items at all Campus Dining restaurants, food trucks and markets, including Subway, Shake Smart and Starbucks. They cannot be used for gratuities or to purchase gift cards, clothing, school supplies, mugs, coffee makers and similar non-food merchandise. Dining Dollars are allocated at the beginning of each academic quarter during the regular school year and expire at the end of spring quarter, unless a 2024-25 Community Plan is purchased by June 20, 2024 and maintained for the 2024-25 academic year.

What is the cost break down of a First-Year Dining Plan?

Included in the cost of all first-year student dining plans are (1) Operational Fee, (2) Dining Dollars for food purchases at Campus Dining locations.

What is the Operational Fee?

The operational fee spreads the non-food operation and overhead costs, including equipment, facilities maintenance and equipment replacements for Campus Dining locations, across all first-year student dining plans. It also helps to fund Campus Dining capital improvements and projects, along with the interest expense associated with any debt from the projects. As a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, Cal Poly Corporation receives no state funds. All funds that the Corporation has goes back into campus. Over the past five years the Cal Poly Corporation has spent nearly $100 million on capital projects across campus. These projects include building Vista Grande, renovating 1901 Marketplace, bringing Scout Coffee to campus, $5 million donated to build the Frost Center, and upcoming projects like bringing Taco Bell to Poly Canyon Village, building Spanos Stadium Concessions Pavilion, and Starbucks at Kennedy Library.

Are there dining plans for continuing and transfer students, and faculty and staff?

Campus Dining offers a variety of dining plan options for continuing and transfer students, as well as faculty and staff. These Community Plans are also accessed through the PolyCard (student ID) for fast, convenient access.

What happens to my unused Dining Dollars if I don’t use them by the end of the quarter?

Unused Dining Dollars roll over to the next quarter through the end of the academic year. Funds remaining at the end of the spring quarter are forfeited unless a 2024-25 Community Plans is purchased by June 20, 2024 and maintained for the 2024-25 academic year.

If I run out of Dining Dollars what else can I use to buy food on campus?

Students can load dollars to their Campus Express account on their PolyCard or purchase a supplemental Community Plan.

How do I check my account balance?

Students can swipe their PolyCards (student/university ID) at the register of any Campus Dining operation to view their current balance or view the information online through their Cal Poly Portal and the PolyCard services link.

Can I change my dining plan?

First-year students can change their dining plan once, during the fall quarter between Oct. 25 through Nov. 13, 2023. The change will be effective at the start of winter quarter.

How do I change my dining plan?

Follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Portal
  2. Look through the My Apps column (left side of the webpage) and click on “University Housing”
  3. Click on the “Dining” tab in the navigation (menu icon in the upper-left corner)
  4. Follow the helpful and user-friendly directions
  5. Check the University Housing portal in mid-December to confirm the changes have been applied to your PolyCard and MoneyMatters tab.

What is the billing process for a dining plan change?

If an upgrade is made, you will be billed appropriately for the winter and spring quarters. If you are on a monthly payment plan, the new cost will be spread throughout the months starting in December. If a less expensive plan is chosen, your monthly or quarterly payment starting in December will be lower. If you paid for the entire year, a credit for the difference will be added to your Student Account. A check or direct deposit refund will need to be requested through Student Accounts. Your remaining dining dollar balance will still roll over to the next quarter, regardless of your dining plan change.

Do you offer dining plans in the summer?

First-Year Dining Plans are not available during the summer, but students can add funds to their Campus Express account, or Community Plans can be purchased during the summer through the Money Matters tab. (Note: Community Plans cannot be selected in the Housing portal for first-year students. They can only buy a supplemental Community Plan in Money Matters.)

Where can I find nutritional information about campus foods?

Campus Dining has created a comprehensive program of information, resources and support tools. Our comprehensive online nutrition calculator lists ingredients, nutrition facts, food allergy support information, and much more.

I have one or more food allergies and am starting Cal Poly in the fall. Is there something I should do before fall?

If a student has a medically documented dietary restriction that prevents them from making full use of the Campus Dining program, they should contact Campus Dining and register with the Disability Resource Center. We will work with the student to outline the many food options available in the dining venues and help them make the best possible use of their dining plan when living on campus. Please note: after reviewing the Campus Dining program and food options, a student needs to determine whether their dietary needs can be met before submitting the initial payment registration for the Housing and Dining License. For more information, call (805) 756-5939 or email for further assistance.

Do you have any helpful tools for students with dietary restrictions?

Campus Dining offers many nutrition support resources. Our registered dietitian is available to work directly with students. Please contact Campus Dining at (805) 756-5939 or at for further assistance.

Who can I speak to if I have dietary restrictions or special needs?

Contact Campus Dining at (805) 756-5939 or e-mail for further assistance. Please note: after reviewing the Campus Dining program and food options, a student needs to determine whether their dietary needs can be met before submitting the initial payment registration for the Housing and Dining License.

Where do I go to make payment?

Students log into their Cal Poly portal and access the payment information through the Money Matters tab.

I made my monthly payment, but why did I get a late charge?

Students may have paid the incorrect amount or paid after business hours, so their payment was processed the next day. To avoid late charges, please carefully follow the payment schedule and procedures. Student Accounts has helpful representatives on staff available to provide additional support. They can be reached at or 805-756-1428.

Does the State subsidize Campus Dining food services?

Campus Dining does not receive any subsidies from the State for food services. Campus Dining is a commercial division of Cal Poly Corporation, a nonprofit auxiliary organization. The corporation supports the university in achieving its educational mission through a variety of vital, quality services.

What should I do if my PolyCard malfunctions, is lost, or stolen?

If the magnetic strip appears to have lost its encoding, please request assistance from ITS Service Desk via their online Support Center. If your PolyCard has been lost or stolen, you can deactivate it through the Cal Poly Portal, using the PolyCard Services link under MyApps. To maintain a PolyCard, keep it away from magnetic fields such as those created by a TV, stereo, microwave, or magnetic clasps of wallets and purses. Heat, water, and abrasive materials can also corrupt the magnetic stripe and render the card unreadable. The PolyCard must be readable by Campus Dining’s cash registers for a purchase to be completed.