Digital and paper signage of ingredients is found in dining commons by dishes. This information is also easily found online through a dine on campus app specific to Northwestern. If ingredients are not listed, students can ask a chef and they will share the ingredients or show students the ingredients on a box or package. Recipes are also shared with students is necessary as there are no secret recipes.
1. We provide access to ingredient information for made-to-order* items. *Made-to-order - Meals that are prepared on request and to your specification in the dining hall. Examples include a sandwich station, omelet station, burrito station, etc.
We post all of our ingredients in the dining commons, by the dish, as well as online. If there is a question, students are encouraged to ask a manager or chef or dietitian. Because we are a food service operation with open kitchens (and not in a manufacturing facility) we focus on listing ingredients rather than listing allergens as you might see on packaged goods. Pre-packaged goods use allergen "contains" statements.
2. We provide access to ingredient information for self-serve* items. *Self-serve - Meals that are served buffet-style in a dining hall. These are typically high risk for cross-contact and are best avoided by diners with food allergies.
We take care to avoid cross contact as much as possible. Our associates are trained to avoid cross contact by changing their gloves and cleaning and changing out utensils when they change tasks and make or serve different recipes. Chefs and associates have taken allergen trainings at least once a year. Informal allergen trainings (such as pre-shift) are frequent. For Pure Eats stations (these stations avoid gluten and the top nine food allergens), associates are careful to prepare ingredients in separate areas and cook foods for our allergy-friendly stations in separate ovens. Purple-handled utensils, cookware, cutting boards and thermometers are used when prepping Pure Eats dishes. Pure Eats stations are located in all of our dining commons. In one dining commons (Foster Walker Plex East), the entire area is Pure Eats and students have an opportunity to serve themselves.
3. We have procedures in place to lower the risk of cross-contact in made-to-order areas.
All cooks and chefs are allergen trained at least once a school year, and often more frequently. We focus on cross contact as much of our food is self-served. We work to educate our associates (cooks, frontline associates) to follow standardized recipes as written so as not to introduce any item to the dish that is not on the recipe card. Frequent production audits are performed to assess recipe adherence and production processes and to stay informed of new products being purchased. Separate serving utensils are used to serve each dish or food item and utensils are changed frequently to mitigate guest cross-contact. We also work to get to know students with food allergies so they feel comfortable speaking up as we are here to help them navigate dining safely.
In addition, Northwestern University has been working closely with Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, a pediatrician, leading allergy researcher at Northwestern, founder of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research (CFAAR), and author of Food Without Fear, a book on living with food allergies. Dr. Gupta's team worked with NU Dining to create an educational video, allergy passport and toolkit to help incoming students prepare to navigate dining and advocate for themselves.
4. We have procedures in place to lower the risk of cross-contact in self-serve areas.
We work closely with students to determine what they need and help them any way we can including pre-order meals when necessary. Our preference is to help students be their own advocate -- help them choosing safe food given their likes and food restrictions.
5. We have pre-order meals* available. *Pre-order meals - Custom meals that can be ordered in advance by a diner so they are ready for pick up at a specific time. Typically these can be ordered online or by phone/text.
We have Pure Eats stations in all of our four residential dining commons. These stations avoid gluten and the top nine food allergens including sesame. These stations are all served by a cook or chef (never self-served, except in Plex East dining common, which is all Pure Eats) and consist of a main dish, vegetable side, grain or starch side, salad and cut fruit. We also have an Avoiding Gluten breakfast pantry area in all dining commons that features gluten-free cereals and gluten-free bread with toaster.
In addition, peanuts and tree nuts do not enter our residential kitchens, so we do not cook or bake with them. We use sunflower butter instead of peanut butter, and have individual portions of sunflower available to students to help prevent cross contact.
Ingredients are listed at each stations; this information is also available on-line on our dine on campus app: https://dineoncampus.com/northwestern/whats-on-the-menu
Our chefs know to share ingredient labels with students.
We also make a point of providing individual tours for any students/parents who would to meet our chefs and ask questions and have a more personal view of how we handle foods to keep students safe.
6. We have an allergy-friendly station*. *Allergy-friendly station - A food station where specific ingredients are banned, typically including many or all items in the Top 8 allergens and gluten.
We conduct allergen training for our associate at least twice a school year, and we have frequent reminder training. We show associates our food allergy video recently created and provide information pocket cards to reinforce information. We also have a scenario training program in which cooks and associates work on different scenarios in the kitchen and share what they would do. This helps cooks understand and work through real-life situations with food allergies.
7. We train dining services staff members.
8. We have a registered dietitian* on staff. *Registered dietitian - Registered dietitians are food and nutrition experts who are often tasked with helping students with food allergies navigate the dining halls.
Food allergies, symptoms of anaphylaxis, what to do in case of an emergency and who to speak with to help students
9. We train our RA's.
Yes, dining works closely with housing and AccessibleNU to help students with food allergies or diet restrictions. This may be in the form of room mate matching, introducing students to others with similar food restrictions (buddy system) or providing accommodations in housing or dining.
10. We have inclusive resident life programs* including food. *Inclusive resident life programs - Programs in the resident halls often include food. Inclusive resident life programs will offer students with food allergies the opportunity to request safe food alternatives for events they attend in the dorms.
11. We offer accommodations for roommate assignments. *Every accommodation request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A housing accommodation cannot be guaranteed prior to an individual evaluation.
Students wishing to request housing and/or meal plan accommodations may do so via Northwestern's Housing & Dining Accommodation Portal. All requests are reviewed by a University committee comprised of members from Undergraduate Financial Aid, Counseling and Psychological Services, Residential Services, University Health Service, Northwestern Dining, the Dean of Students Office, and other campus partners.
Every effort is made to accommodate students’ needs within our housing system and meal plan using the alternatives available. The meal plan contract does not permit exceptions based on religious dictates, personal food choice or preferences (e.g. vegetarianism), or other non-medically-based, dietary requirements. If a request for a meal plan accommodation is received, the University’s dietitian will be consulted and recommend a final decision.
12. Our disability office processes food allergy and celiac disease accommodation requests.
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We strongly encourage students to carry their own medications (including epinephrine) with them at all times. This is one of the first steps we encourage students to take to advocate for themselves. We also encourage students with food allergies to share their allergies with their roommate, RA and close friends and how they can help if they experience an allergic reaction. We believe college is the perfect time for students to actively participate in their own allergen management and advocate for themselves, with our help.
13. We have stock, undesignated epinephrine* available for emergency response. *Stock, undesignated epinephrine - Epinephrine that is prescribed to a college or university rather than to a particular student. This epinephrine is kept on hand to use for any student that experiences anaphylaxis.
14. Our campus emergency responders carry epinephrine.