Northwestern’s Unite For Sight hosts first ‘Dining in the Dark’ experience

Lydia Ramsey, Copy Chief

When students entered one by one Tuesday into the Jerome B. Cohen Commons in Technological Institute, they were met with a meal in complete darkness.

Northwestern’s chapter of Unite For Sight, an organization that raises money to support sight-restoring surgeries, hosted the sold-out event, called “Dining in the Dark.” The group fed 32 students as a fundraiser for surgeries in Ghana, Honduras and India.

“It only costs $50 to do the surgery,” UFS co-president Holly Romaniak said. “That’s why one of our main objectives is raising the funds, so we can send it abroad.”

Romaniak, a Weinberg junior, started the on-campus UFS chapter last year with a Foster-Walker Complex suite mate. The group’s goal is to raise $750 each academic year through bimonthly fundraisers to send to an eye clinic for sight-restoring surgeries, predominantly cataract removal procedures. The $50 covers the cost of surgery, as well as follow-up care. The national group also helps fund examinations and other basic eye care services.

Most of the fundraisers hosted by UFS are bake sales and other small events, Romaniak said. Other programming by the group included a screening of the documentary “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” earlier this month. Romaniak said this meal was the first big event the group has hosted — and the most successful one so far.

Romaniak said the idea for “Dining in the Dark” came from the UFS chapter at Carnegie Mellon University. At its blind meal, however, that group only served food from Panera Bread.

“We wanted to up the ante,” Romaniak said.

The dinner at NU cost $8 per person with food donated from local restaurants including Mt. Everest, Buffalo Wild Wings, Thai Sookdee and Dave’s Italian Kitchen. Participants sat at tables in the dark and were served small plates of food in four different courses.

Romaniak said being in the dark is part of a new gourmet-dining trend. By removing sight, the intent is to heighten the other senses. Restaurants across the country, including Chicago’s Opacity, feature this dining-in-the-dark experience.

Medill senior Kawther Albader said Tuesday was her first time experiencing eating without lights. She said the salad served at the event tasted better in the dark than it normally does.

“We were talking about how the dressing was so great,” she said. “But it was probably just like regular dressing.”

Another diner, Komal Sheth, said the event was an interesting concept. She said she connected with UFS and its purpose.

“I can definitely see where (the group) is coming from in terms of sight-restoring surgeries,” the Weinberg junior said. “Being blinded or even temporarily blinded for this evening makes me really appreciate it when I can see.”