Sodexho-Marriott Food Services is going kosher.
A kosher meal option will be offered in the dining halls of Sargent Hall, 1835 Hinman and Allison Hall beginning today. Norris University Center and Tech Express also will offer students pre-packaged kosher meals.
Kosher Kiosks, cabinets filled with kosher food items, will be located in Sargent, Hinman and Allison. The food will be available at no extra charge for students who have at least a five-meal plan, said Rabbi Dov Klein of the Tannenbaum Chabad House, who will supervise the program.
Each kiosk will contain a microwave, refrigerator and toaster, and there will be separate areas for dairy and meat products.
The kiosks will be stocked with food items that students had requested during Winter Quarter; a list of pre-existing kosher items will stand outside of the kiosk. The kiosks also will contain plastic plates and silverware as well as place mats for the trays.
Because kosher food must be specially prepared, the dining hall kitchens won’t prepare the food, Klein said. He said the food will be prepared daily in Allison and transported to Sargent and Hinman.
“The main thing is to keep the integrity of the food,” Klein said. “This is a major step for Northwestern. I’ve been here for 15 years, and we’ll finally be able to offer something that’s hot to eat.”
Unlike most major private universities, Klein said, NU has never offered a kosher meal plan.
“The universities NU compares itself to, such as Brown and Princeton, all have kosher meal plans in place,” Klein said. “Students here have had to fend for themselves.”
Klein said the university loses several students each year because of the lack of a kosher plan. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis acknowledged that Klein’s estimate was “possible.”
“I’m so proud our university is finally offering a kosher option,” Klein said. “We’ll be offering the best of kosher standards.”
A university-sponsored committee has been looking into developing some kind of kosher plan for the past three years, Klein said. Last fall, McCormick junior Mark Dredze made a presentation to Banis, recommending that a kosher plan should be implemented by this quarter.
“The part I’m stressing is that NU is a school many kosher students look at and find out that it doesn’t offer kosher food,” Dredze said. “They cross it off the list. Now that we have a kosher option, those students who crossed NU off the list can come here.”
Banis added: “We would hope that some people would look at (the kosher plan) as an attempt to serve all our students.”
The kiosks will be available during all regular dining hall hours. When students enter one of the dining halls, they will exchange their WildCARDs for keys to the kiosks. Each dining hall will have multiple keys to accommodate demand for the service.
Klein said he plans to use student feedback to improve the program. He predicted that 15 to 20 students will take advantage of the program initially, but he thinks the numbers will increase after more students hear about the program.
Signing up for the kosher meal plan will not affect the students’ ability to eat non-kosher food in the dining halls, Dredze said in an e-mail to students.
Students can sign up for the plan at the Undergraduate Housing Office. Students already on a university meal plan must sign an agreement to follow the rules of the kosher plan. If they are not currently on a meal plan, they can sign up for a minimum of a five meals per week plan at a quarterly cost of $258.
The deadline for signing up is April 25.
“I think it’s a great program,” said Eli Margulies, a Music freshman. “I think (students will participate) if the publicity is good enough, and I don’t think it’s been good enough.”
Klein said the kosher plan is not connected to the university’s Passover meal plan. The Passover policy allows students on traditional meal plans to transfer meals to the Hillel Cultural Life Center during the Passover holiday.