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Sustainability, Community at the Core of NU Dining’s Initiatives 

Food can cross a lot of boundaries and create community.”

Stacey Brown
Director of Dining

NU Dining’s cultural celebrations bring together University partners, while Planet Eats connects local growers and student groups

NU Dining has launched several exciting initiatives to promote sustainability and community throughout the campus community, one meal at a time.   

Planet Eats at Sargent Dining Hall is new for the 2023-24 academic year, providing sustainable and plant-forward options for students. The station includes hot grain, rice, rice alternatives such as couscous or farro and protein alternatives such as tofu or seitan, kimchi, pickled vegetables, fermented foods, greens and vegetables. To top off the experience, Planet Eats has a wall of toppings and dressings for students to browse.   

“We try to make things as inclusive as possible so that as many people as possible can take part in that station,” Northwestern Director of Dining Stacey Brown said.  

The menu was designed with the environment in mind, with non-meat-based proteins and plant-forward offerings. 

Adding to the sustainability factor are products sourced from local vendors. NU Dining’s partnership with Heaven’s Honey (Chicago), Garwood Orchards (Indiana), Superior Growing (Michigan), Windy City Harvest (Chicago) and Sunny Oak Farm (Illinois) provide fresh produce including apples and mushrooms to Planet Eats. 

Krista Brown, sustainability manager for Compass Group, Northwestern’s food service provider, noted the importance of eating locally and supporting small businesses.  

“We should know where our food is coming from and when you buy from giant companies, it's a lot harder to get that transparency,” Krista Brown said. “We're not shipping things from California. We're getting them from 100 miles away, 30 miles away, so the supply chain is a lot tighter. We get a sense of who is growing the food.” 


Krista Brown also emphasized that Northwestern’s student body being from all areas of the world means many don’t have a connection to Midwestern foods. Using Chicagoland vendors, she said, can create a more profound sense of community.  

NU Dining is also continuing its cultural events this year, with the help of university partners such as Religious and Spiritual Life and the Multicultural Student Affairs, alongside student groups. In November, Norris University Center hosted a Native American Heritage Month celebration. The event, put on with the support of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, featured Indigenous chef Jessica Pamonicutt alongside Indigenous performers. 

“All of those groups are heavily involved in the planning to ensure that we're executing these events in a way that is respectful and accurate of the cultures that we're recognizing and celebrating,” Compass District Marketing Manager Sophia Bamiatzis said.


NU Dining has hosted Hispanic Heritage Month this year and recently hosted a Lunar New Year celebration featuring Japchae, long life noodles, sushi and egg rolls. 

“Food can cross a lot of boundaries and create community,” Brown said. “We try to live that value when we are partnering with our Evanston community and our students and their communities.”  

With these events, NU Dining hopes to create a sense of home while educating students. According to Bamiatzis, the goal is to teach students “to really understand the richness of the foods, traditions, music, etc. that comes from them and create spaces where all of that can come together for our students to enjoy.”  

To keep updated with new offerings at dining halls, such as Planet Eats, alongside events, the NU Dining team suggests following @nu_dining on Instagram.