As classes begin this week, Northwestern Dining has introduced sparkling new spaces and menu offerings to provide students more comprehensive meal choices in convenient locations. The new options mean students can eat vegan, halal, Kosher, vegetarian and more campus wide.
The University’s food service partner, Compass Group, has invested $19 million in recent upgrades throughout the Evanston and Chicago campuses, highlighted by dramatic improvements to the Elder and Allison Hall dining commons.
"When we looked for a new provider last year, our goal was to raise the quality of the dining experience to be on par with everything that makes Northwestern a leading, world-class university,” said Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, interim vice president for Student Affairs. “With renovated venues, more inclusive options, improved quality and a focus on sustainability, we’re really excited about what we’re offering the Northwestern community."
Students’ expectations go beyond personal taste and comfort food. At Elder (below) and Allison, the makeovers create inviting, modern hangouts where students can spread out, plug in a laptop and enjoy meals from distinctive food stations featuring cooked-from-scratch entrees, made-to-order sandwiches, salad bars, desserts and fair trade coffee, along with options that more than satisfy individuals’ cultural and religious guidelines, allergies and nutritional needs.
At Allison, students can use the teaching kitchen to learn the art of cooking from professional chefs, trying different ingredients and even rolling their own sushi.
Available at every campus dining hall is the “Pure Eats” concept — food that is simply prepared and avoids gluten as well as the nine most prevalent food allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, eggs, dairy and sesame.
All dining halls, including Elder, now feature the Pure Eats concept.
Northwestern Dining and Compass have committed to increasing local sourcing, meaning food and ingredients originate from within 250 miles of campus. Last year, 20% of Northwestern Dining food was sourced locally from small businesses, area farms and women- and minority-owned businesses.
There will be surprises all year at Norris University Center and the Tech Express facility, which will feature a series of local pop-up restaurants, such as Olive Mediterranean Grill and Pork and Mindy’s. Norris also will continue its farmers market twice a month, featuring local providers of fresh produce and baked goods.
Food as fuel
Given the wealth of food options available — nutritious and otherwise — students are increasingly mindful of what they put in their bodies. That can be especially challenging when they’re constantly eating out. At breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack time, Northwestern Dining can help students eat to stay fit, energetic and focused on school. Dietitian Lisa Carlson provides free nutrition counseling on topics ranging from healthy eating and weight management to avoiding allergens and eating disorders.
Most Northwestern Dining facilities are located within residence halls, but they aren’t just for students. Faculty and staff are encouraged to break away from their routines to check out what’s new.
“We think of these as community spaces,” said Stacey Brown, Northwestern’s director of dining. “Anyone can buy a meal plan or simply pay at the door. Either way these are warm, inviting places to get a great meal while engaging in the campus experience.”