60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013

These colleges go above and beyond to make sure their students are well-fed

Carleton College
With picnics, cooking classes, and even a 'Star Wars'-themed dinner, Minnesota's Carleton College might be small, but its dining program is big and bold.

Another school year is finally upon us, and with it comes the reality that for many, many schools across America, the dining options are nothing short of grim at best. For many students who are reliant on a meal plan, the less said about the meals eaten in campus dining halls the better. But some colleges and universities go above and beyond in their efforts to serve fresh, wholesome meals to the students who are living and studying there. From a college in Vermont that only sources its food from local vendors to one in Massachusetts that hosts a farmers' market that’s entirely student-run, we tracked down the 60 best colleges for food in America.

60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013 (Slideshow)

Last summer, The Daily Meal conducted an eye-opening study, building on our previous ranking, that examined the most outstanding campus dining at nearly all of the approximately 2,000 four-year colleges across America. We discovered some schools that gave their students top-notch dining experiences, while others failed to pass even the most simple health inspections. However, in the end we found 52 clear winners that refused to accept the stigma that comes with collegiate dining, taking the ordinary campus meal and turning it into an extraordinary dining experience.

For this year’s second annual study, we had a few goals in mind when revamping the list: to see if the schools that wowed us last year were still maintaining culinary perfection; to see the improvements some of the average dining programs have made to possibly rise in the ranks; and to see if any colleges that didn’t make the cut last year have begun to see the importance their dining services have to students. We connected with passionate and candid dining services directors, managers, and chefs, and learned that more than ever, students on the whole are already passionate and knowledgeable about food when they arrive at campus, and are interested in trying new foods and want to know where it's coming from. 

Here’s the methodology we used to come up with the 60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013:

• Healthy Food/Local and Sustainable: The meals are made in-house from scratch as well as cooked in small batches, and the school is committed to teaching their students the benefits of buying locally and maintaining healthy lifestyles.
• Accessibility and Service: The number of eateries on campus along with the daily hours, and how well these locations are taken care of.
• Events/Nutritional Education: Events are centered on food, and the dining halls help bring students together in an engaging way. Additionally, if they educated their students about nutrition through these events or on their website, it was a bonus.
• The 'X Factor': Something unique and creative that differentiated the school’s dining services from the rest of the pack.
• Student Feedback/ Social Media: While we still valued many of the things we noted from last year — for example, whether students are interested in trying new cuisines and spices as well as very invested in sustainable and local dining — there are still many schools that seemed to fall short when we evaluated their dining performances. Therefore, we made student feedback and social media outlets the last category in our assessment this year. It seemed appropriate this time around to incorporate how well-received student requests or complaints are by the dining services, as well as the frequency that these pages are updated to inform their students about new additions or changes.

While we did evaluate the schools for how great the actual food is, the most important aspect to us was the overall dining experience, everything from restaurant-quality food to "going green." As a result, several of the schools that were seen as the leaders on last year’s list have been joined by institutions have improved their dining services. While the hierarchy might be changed, all the schools on our list still go above and beyond the call of duty. And while there is a clear hierarchy, we’d be happy to eat at any of the colleges on this list. The truth is that life can be pretty delicious if you’re an undergrad.

For example, Occidental College engages their students in yearly events like "Oxy Iron Chef" and holiday theme nights; Bowdoin’s dining hall blog and their dining hall food magazine, The Bowdoin Gourmet, are designed to constantly keep students in the loop. Emory University offers their students cooking classes on topics like the best wine and meal pairings and mixology 101, while Kennesaw State harvests their own honey, mushrooms, and herbs from campus gardens. Washington University in St. Louis allows students to customize and order campus food online, and Cornell has had guests like The New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman come to campus and speak about conscious eating.

It seems somewhat difficult to grasp how truly amazing some dining programs are, but with this list, we’ve tried to highlight how impressive and tasty life can be at one of these schools. If food is your priority, make sure you keep those transfer forms handy after reading our picks for the 60 Best Colleges for Food in America.

Did we miss any? We want to hear from you! Leave us a comment about the food on your campus.

60. University of Washington, Seattle
59. Boston College, Boston
58. William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va.
57. University of Richmond, Richmond, Va.
56. Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.
55. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
54. Scripps College, Claremont, Calif.
53. Roger Williams University, Bristol, R.I.
52. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
51. Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.
50. St Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.
49. Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.
48. Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.
47. Saint Anselm College, Manchester, N.H.
46. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.
45. University of California, San Diego, San Diego, Calif.
44. Brown University, Providence, R.I.
43. Mills College, Oakland, Calif.
42. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
41. Pitzer College, Claremont, Calif.
40. Colby College, Waterville, Maine
39. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine
38. Connecticut College, New London, Conn.
37. University of Delaware, Newark, Del.
36. Boston University, Boston
35. Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind.
34. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
33. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
32. Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
31. Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa.
30. Carleton College, Northfield, Minn.
29. Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn.
28. University of Chicago, Chicago
27. Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.
26. Duke University, Durham, N.C.
25. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.
24. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.
23. University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
22. Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.
21. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
20. Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
19. Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
18. Columbia University, New York City
17. University of California, Davis, Davis, Calif.
16. University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.
15. Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
14. Occidental College, Los Angeles
13. Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pa.
12. Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
11. St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
10. Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
9. Tufts University, Boston
8. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.
7. UMass Amherst, Amherst, Mass.
6. Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
5. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
4. Emory University, Atlanta
3. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
2. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis
1. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine


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NC STATE NAMED ONE OF THE TOP 15 HEALTHIEST FOOD SERVICE OPERATIONS IN THE COUNTRY

RALEIGH, N.C. (June 23, 2014) – North Carolina State University's dining operation--University Dining--has been named to FoodService Director Magazine's fifteen healthiest food service operations in the country, based on its establishment of a healthy environment and nutritious food options for its guests and employees.

FoodService Director Magazine specifically recognized University Dining at NC State for its technological innovation as it relates to health and wellness.

The list was featured in the magazine's June 2014 issue. NC State's dining program was chosen because “streamlined management software for menu planning, purchasing, nutrition analysis, allergen marking, product labeling and information display take out the guesswork for the 18 on-staff chefs, resulting in accurate recipe testing, nutritional data collection and reporting, accurate ingredient cost data and menu management.”

According to Randy Lait, senior director for hospitality services at NC State, there is a strong correlation between nutrition and academic success. "We have worked for several years to build a program that ensures our campus community has fresh, healthy and nutritious dining options and access to accurate nutrition information," Lait said. "It is gratifying to see our work in this area is being nationally recognized."

University Dining's nutrition program is led by Registered Dietitian Lisa Eberhart, who
was named as Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by the N.C Dietetic Association and as a Dedicated and Deserving Dietitian by Today’s Dietitian Magazine. She also received the N.C. Governor's Award in 2013 for her outstanding contributions to promoting health and wellness at NC State University.

"We have created an environment that encourages our campus community to choose fresh, wholesome food items while also fostering menus and practices that allow those with dietary preferences and needs to dine confidently,” Eberhart added.

NC State University Dining has also received national recognition for its sustainability practices and recent retail additions.

University Dining is a service of Campus Enterprises, the lead division for retail and hospitality on the NC State University campus. For more information, contact Joanna Minett at 919.513.3969 or via email at: <a href="mailto:jlminett@ncsu.edu">jlminett@ncsu.edu</a>.

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Three years ago University Dining added all of campus menu items to the MyFitnessPal database, enabling our students and staff to monitor their caloric intake through this widely used app.

Water as Beverage of Choice

We promote water as the healthiest beverage choice. We promote water consumption at our dining halls with beautiful spa style hydration stations. This has decreased our soda and juice consumption by 10%!

C-Store Nutrition 101

We offer free guided tours of our largest campus C-store to educate students and staff on the healthier options available there.

Vegan and Vegetarian Options

We offer a wide array of healthy options at all of our food operations. Vegan and vegetarian entrees are offered daily at each meal at all of our dining halls. We don’t stop there! We offer vegan and vegetarian options

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North Carolina State has an excellent and healthy food service.

Every food item on campus is analyzed and has ingredient lists available. We have i-pads at all food services with easy access to allergens and ingredients along with calories. But that's not all.

Three years ago University Dining added all of campus menu items to the MyFitnessPal database, enabling our students and staff to monitor their caloric intake through this widely used app.

Water as Beverage of Choice

We promote water as the healthiest beverage choice. We promote water consumption at our dining halls with beautiful spa style hydration stations. This has decreased our soda and juice consumption by 10%!
C-Store Nutrition 101

We offer free guided tours of our largest campus C-store to educate students and staff on the healthier options available there.

Vegan and Vegetarian Options

We offer a wide array of healthy options at all of our food operations. Vegan and vegetarian entrees are offered daily at each meal at all of our dining halls. We don’t stop there! We offer vegan and vegetarian options

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The Washington Post says the University of Maryland sports the premier foodie haven. Click:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/campuses-cater-to-foodie-movement-by...

Maryland, which was founded in the 1800s with an agricultural grant, also recently added this sustainable, organic farm system to supply the campus eateries.
http://dining.umd.edu/terp-farm

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I'm sure its fun to be have "WoW" factor or great nutritional education and I support local, but the list I'd like to see is main dining halls that good wholesome food with our additives, dyes, and MSG. To include daily varied vegetable choices in a wide variety, healthy fats and non-hydronated oils, whole grains, some meats. I want to know if the colleges we're looking at have food that will sustain me for four years.

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I'm sure its fun to be have "WoW" factor or great nutritional education and I support local, but the list I'd like to see is main dining halls that good wholesome food with our additives, dyes, and MSG. To include daily varied vegetable choices in a wide variety, healthy fats and non-hydronated oils, whole grains, some meats. I want to know if the colleges we're looking at have food that will sustain me for four years.

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What about The Culinary Institute of America? Students eat 4-Star food every day.

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Rutgers University's Livingston campus at the very least has an amazing dining hall it's clean, organized, and has an amazing choice of food.

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