Compass goes nut-free in effort to accommodate students with allergies


Alison Albeda / Daily Senior Staffer

Sargent dining hall. Dining halls this fall stopped offering peanuts and tree nuts to accommodate students with allergies.

Danny Vesurai, Reporter

Northwestern dining halls have become nut-free this fall to accommodate students with peanut or tree nut allergies. The policy follows the University’s decision last year to switch food service providers from Sodexo and Aramark to Compass Group North America.

Georgene Sardis, Compass marketing director, said Northwestern Dining believes major health issues such as allergies should be taken seriously.

“It has always been the goal of Northwestern Dining to make the safety and well-being of our guests our top priority,” Sardis told The Daily in an email.

SESP freshman Claire Koster said the new policy comes as a relief for students who, like her, have severe nut allergies. While Koster said she has never experienced an allergic reaction because she is careful to avoid nuts, her allergy tests said that if she ingested nuts she could go into anaphylactic shock, which could lead to death.

“I’m definitely appreciative of the policy,” she said. “It makes my life a lot easier and more stress-free.”

Sodexo, the previous food provider, served food items with peanuts and tree nuts in dining halls.

Aiming to standardize the student dining experience, the University started looking for alternative food service providers in July of last year — since Sodexo’s contracts with the school year were due to expire in 2018 — and announced the switch from Sodexo and Aramark to Compass in April of this year.

Northwestern joins other colleges across the country that have implemented similar allergy-free dining halls. Schools like Kent State University and Cornell University have opened entire gluten-free dining halls, according to The New York Times. About 4 percent of children and adults have food allergies, with 90 percent of allergens being among the top eight allergens, according to The Peanut Institute, “a non-profit organization that supports nutrition research.”

As Compass implements its nut-free policy at Northwestern, the provider is also working to help people with severe reactions to other allergens. The Allison and Sargent dining halls have added Pure Eats stations, where chefs prepare dishes without gluten or any of the top eight allergens, Sardis said. All dining halls will have Pure Eats stations by the end of the academic year, she said.

Compass is also looking at bringing nut butter alternatives like SunButter — “nut” butter made from sunflower seeds — to dining halls, Sardis said.

Some students who aren’t allergic to nuts said they are understanding of the policy and are willing to not eat nuts in dining halls.

Weinberg sophomore Kayden Washington said he kept cashews in his dorm last year and was careful not to contaminate public spaces for people who may have nut allergies.

“Nut allergies are definitely severe, so I think it’s an understandable policy,” Washington said.

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Twitter: @dvesurai