The Catholic University of America strongly believes in the benefits that a structured meal plan program has to offer to our students in terms of overall health and well-being, nutrition, and in the importance of the shared, communal experience of 'breaking bread' together.  All first-, second-, and third-year residential undergraduate students are required to participate in a meal plan.  We encourage students to review the Dining Services website to explore dining options available at Catholic University.

Catholic U's Meal Plan Program is intentionally designed to provide food options and offerings to assist students who are living with food-related conditions such as the top nine food allergies recognized by the FDA, celiac disease, etc.  The University has an on-site dietitian dedicated to advising and supporting students participating in the meal plan program; the dietitian is available to provide direct one-on-one advice on how best to navigate options provided through the meal plan program.  This direct one-on-one advice can support students choosing to adhere to a diet (e.g. vegan or vegetarian) or assist them to understand what foods/preparations may exacerbate conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  A student who is living with a food-related condition can contact Dining Services for support and resources.  Jordan Sawyer is the registered dietitian and may be reached by email at: (preferred method) or by phone at:  202-319-6699 during regular business hours M-F, 9:00am-5:00pm.


Requesting Accommodations

The Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) supports students who are living with diagnosed food-related disabilities and conditions and who may need accommodations to mitigate:  1). substantial barriers presented by a communal dining experience or 2). substantial functional limitations to major life activities or health functions that may impact their participation in a meal plan program.  In these cases, DSS consults with Dining Services and the University Dietician to review and determine if reasonable dining accommodation(s) are appropriate to eligible students through an interactive process.  

Seeking a Dining Accommodation requires a student to initiate a request through DSS.  The request process with DSS follows the following steps:


Step One: Complete a Dining Accommodation Request Form

The Dining Accommodation Request Form seeks to gather information about the following: demographic and contact information; details of a student's diagnosed disability or condition, related medical information, and current state of their condition; the impact any barriers or limitations may have on major life activities; and what reasonable dining accommodations are being sought. This form must be completed by the student.


Step Two: Provide DSS with Supportive Documentation

Supportive documentation from a qualified provider assists DSS in formulating a comprehensive understanding of a student's diagnosed disability or condition; what barriers or functional limitations may impact a student's experience; and what care and treatment is being offered.

DSS has created a Clinical Care Provider Form for Dining Accommodations Requests as the preferred way to submit supportive documentation. A student may also request a written letter from a qualified provider as long as all questions from the Clinical Care Provider Form are clearly addressed; submitted letters that do not address all of the content may significantly delay the review phase of the process.

  1. A student who indicates they live with any food-related allergies must provide DSS with a comprehensive food allergy test report as part of their supportive documentation.  
  2. A student who indicates they are to follow a specified diet must provide DSS with a comprehensive list of foods/ingredients that they must avoid and a list of foods/ingredients that they should consume to adhere to the parameters of a specified diet as part of their supportive documentation.  

The specific supportive documentation noted above must come from a qualified professional (a Provider) who can verify their diagnosis and provide sufficient details as outlined above.  Supportive documentation that does not provide this information will be deemed insufficient and will pause any further review or consideration of the submitted Dining Accommodations Request.

NOTE:  A student who is already registered with DSS for other Accommodations (and therefore already has supportive documentation on file with DSS) is strongly encouraged to provide new, updated, or more specific supportive documentation that directly relates to a Dining Accommodation Request. A student with supportive documentation already on file with DSS must notify DSS directly by email ( if they want their existing documentation to be used as part of this review process and do not intend to submit any new or additional documentation.


Step Three:  Participate in a Consultation Meeting with the University Dietician 

Once both of the prior steps have been completed and information submitted to DSS, the student may be directed to meet with the University’s on-site Dietician, a staff member with Dining Services, based on a preliminary review completed by Disability Support Services.  The purpose of this consultation meeting is to better understand what constraints or limitations a student may have with participation in the meal plan program in relation to the offerings of the meal plan program.  This is also an opportunity for the University Dietician to offer advice on how best to navigate options provided through the meal plan program.  The University Dietician will provide DSS with insights on a student’s ability to participate in a meal plan and may offer recommendations for possible accommodations to be considered by DSS.


Step Four:  Participate in an Intake Meeting with DSS Staff

Once the prior steps have been completed, the student will meet with a DSS staff member for an Intake Meeting regarding their Dining Accommodations Request. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule and participate in this interactive process. DSS will reach out to the student via email to set a time and date for this meeting (either virtual or in-person); meetings generally last 45 minutes, depending on the complexity of the student's request.

During the meeting, the student will have an opportunity to share, in their own words, about the nature of their lived experiences as it relates to the dining accommodations request. This also presents an opportunity for DSS staff to validate or clarify their understanding of the request and about the student's diagnosed disability or condition.

The objective of this interactive process is for DSS to be best positioned to make an informed determination on the Dining Accommodation Request. All determinations will be communicated back to the student, directly from DSS. Determinations that support reasonable dining accommodation(s) will also be shared with Dining Services and with Housing Services, which processes modifications to a student’s meal plan program.


Other Important Considerations
  • Submission of a Dining Accommodation Request process, in and of itself, does not invalidate a student's obligation to participate in the University's Meal Plan Program and meet the program requirements based on class year.
  • A student's personal preference, such as the desire to cook their own meals or to control the ingredients of a meal by purchasing their own food, in and of itself, is insufficient to warrant a dining accommodation. 
  • A student who has been approved by DSS for other accommodations (e.g. academic or housing) does not automatically receive consideration for a dining accommodation nor do other approved accommodations automatically result in an approved dining accommodation. A student may request dining accommodations concurrently with other accommodation requests but is not required to do so. In such cases where multiple requests are made concurrently, the student Intake Meeting will address all pending accommodation requests.
  • Although some disability or conditions justify approval by DSS of a housing accommodation related to access to a kitchen, kitchen access in student housing is not intended to be a substitute for a dining plan, which University policy requires for all on-campus residents, Freshmen through Junior year. 
  • A student who has been approved by DSS for dining accommodations will be able to carry over their approved accommodations to a future academic year, without alteration, by notifying DSS of their intent to utilize their dining accommodation for a future academic year. DSS will reach out directly to students with more details ahead of each new academic year or term.
  • A student who chooses to study abroad and who has been approved by DSS for dining accommodations and seeks accommodations while abroad must notify DSS to initiate outreach to Catholic U's Office of International Programs (CUAbroad).  CUAbroad staff serve as a liaison between the student and their abroad host institution. DSS is available to a student's abroad host institution to consult on their approved dining accommodations.

Updated April 2024