Food Allergies & Dietary Conditions

Serving students with life-threatening food allergies, celiac, and other dietary conditions is a priority at Northwestern.  We believe that the ability to dine and reside safely on-campus with fellow students is a significant part of the college experience and strive to provide this opportunity for all of our students.

Because students and parents understandably often have questions regarding food safety and anaphylaxis responsiveness, we include a number of FAQs below. Please click on the question to reveal the corresponding information.

What steps need to be taken in order to receive assistance related to a food allergy or other dietary need (such as celiac)?
  1. Start by including allergy or dietary condition information on the Admission Health Record, and include a brief letter from your managing physician regarding your needs and treatment for your medical condition. Contact Sue Whiting with Health Service if you have any questions.

  2. Email Northwestern's dietitian, Lisa Carlson, or call her at 331-201-8706 at least one month before you plan to dine on campus to alert her of your condition. The dietitian, in collaboration with Northwestern Dining, does an excellent job accommodating a wide variety of dietary needs and preferences. In rare cases, however, if a meal plan modification is needed, the dietitian can recommend this accommodation.

    • Please be prepared to provide documentation of your condition from your physician (who must be unrelated to you) to the dietitian. This documentation may be subject to review by a Health Service physician.

  • In accordance with laws governing confidentiality of medical information, your information will not and cannot be shared without your signed release. 

How can I be assured that dining on campus is a safe option?

Northwestern contracts with Compass, which we call Northwestern Dining, which is one of the leaders in food-allergy awareness and cross-contamination prevention and has a respected reputation for its awareness, safety, training, and food-handling practices. A priority for Northwestern Dining is helping to make the dining experience similarly accessible for all students. The food on campus is properly and clearly labeled so that students always know what they are consuming and, in some situations, students may also be able to obtain custom, individually plated meals. Northwestern Dining regularly trains its staff to ensure every precaution is taken in order to provide safe, delicious meals to all students on campus.

Are events taking place on campus outside of the dining halls a safe option?

Generally, any NU-sponsored event is catered by Northwestern Catering. However, we recommend that you contact the organizer of an event ahead of time or check with the dietitian about any concerns you have surrounding the event in question. Off-campus Wildcat Welcome meals, for example, are furnished by Northwestern Catering, who may reach out to you beforehand to confirm dietary needs if you have already contacted the dietitian.

In the event that an allergic reaction does occur, who should be contacted?

In any emergency, especially those involving a life-threatening food allergy, students should dial 911 first. Health Service will also be notified of these emergencies, and students who experience these emergencies should follow up with Health Service (847-491-8100) during business hours.

In addition, any time a student has a severe allergic reaction the dean on-call (available 24/7/365) is notified and works to --coordinate efforts between necessary departments, providers, and emergency contacts. Moreover, students (or parents) can call the dean-on-call to be appropriately routed or provided with emergency-related information. These resources are explained in more depth on our NUhelp page.

What on-campus emergency procedures are taken?

911 is called and the Fire Department, Police, and ambulance arrive right away. They are all very familiar with our campus, and we work and train together frequently. All relevant staff are extensively emergency-trained.

Who will be trained and aware on the use of EpiPens and emergency procedures?

Residence Directors (RDs), Resident Assistants (RAs), Peer Advisers (PAs), and most other Student Affairs staff are trained and aware of emergency procedures associated with allergic reactions. However, because it is considered a medical procedure, by law, no NU employee, student, or other community member is required to administer an EpiPen. Instead, 911 will be called. This then triggers a call to the dean-on-call, who contacts other necessary need-to-know individuals, which typically includes parents in the case of an anaphylactic reaction.

Can I have a roommate if I have a food allergy?

Yes, some students with food allergies are comfortable educating not only their roommate but students on their floor in order to prevent any dangerous contamination. It is recommended that you set up a meeting with your RA after move-in to enlist any necessary support with peer education. On the other hand, some students may only feel safe living in a single, which is a housing accommodation request that must be made no later than June 1st prior to your freshman fall or no later than the first week of spring quarter if you're a returning student.

Emergency medications – where will they be stored and who will be able to access them?

Only Health Service and students prescribed the medication will have access to an EpiPen or Auvi-Q. It is not possible to stock it elsewhere on campus due to laws concerning the control of the medication. The fire department, who is always dispatched when 911 is dialed or an ambulance otherwise arrives, has an EpiPen on board according to Northwestern Police Department (NUPD).

When dialing 911 from a cell phone, who will be dispatched?

If the call is made from an NU land line, NUPD will be dispatched. When an emergency call is placed from a cell phone, the particular jurisdiction of the emergency team is dictated by the location the call was made from and/or the cell phone tower receiving and transmitting the signal. The exact location of the student at the time of the call is important in determining exactly who will be dispatched, which is why it is always best practice to share one's exact location.