75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2014

These colleges impressed us with their incredible dining programs

Best Colleges for Food
University of Georgia
With a local-minded sustainability program, events like Valentine's Cupcake Decorating, and a 24-hour dining option, University of Georgia definitely earned its spot on this list.

College can be tough, and we mean really tough. With tests and book lists and what seem like endless assignments, college students today have a lot of stress to deal with. Sometimes all they need at the end of a long day is a good meal, but unfortunately, they can’t always get it. Let’s face it: college dining halls are not typically culinary havens. Thankfully, though, there are more than a few colleges across the United States that go above and beyond when it comes to their dining services. From a college that only cooks from scratch every day to a college that lets students use their dining plan at countless off-campus restaurants, we’ve tracked down the 75 best colleges for food in America.

Click here for the 75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2014 (Slideshow)

This is our third annual list of the best colleges for food. Last year, the list was expanded from 52 colleges in 2012 to 60 colleges in 2013. For both lists, each and every one of the approximately 2,000 four-year colleges in America was considered. The first year’s list focused on the cleanliness and accessibility of the dining halls along with the menu options, while the second year’s list combined much of the criteria in the first list (combining healthy food and sustainability), and factored in student feedback to determine the best colleges.

For our third annual list, we’ve expanded our winners’ circle to 75 colleges to offer even more contenders the chance to show just how much their dining programs shine. We have used much of the same criteria as last year’s list, but this time around we considered the food scene of the surrounding area in our ranking. Students like to get off campus every once in a while, and if the food offered around the schools was easily accessible and highly rated, that was a contributing factor in the overall rating of colleges. We also didn’t consider student feedback this year because we didn’t want school pride to interfere with the ranking. We wanted our ranking to be based on quantifiable criteria that would really determine the best colleges for food without passionate students and alumni skewing the list. 

We started out with a full list of around 2,000 colleges, and after rigorous research and reaching out to their dining services, we narrowed that list down to around 320 knockouts. These standout colleges were highly respected for a myriad of reasons across the country, and had dining programs that caught our attention. After that, we chose the final 75 by looking at specific efforts each college was making toward improving taste, nutrition, and community and deciding what was really exceptional. It seems that students across the country are becoming more mature in their tastes and demanding in what they expect of their college dining experience. Students want their food to taste great, to be fun, and to be sustainable, and colleges are responding.

With that in mind, here are the criteria we used to judge the 75 best colleges for food in America for 2014:

Nutrition and Sustainability: Each college on this list makes consistent efforts to ensure that their food is well-balanced, as well as tasty, and is healthy not just for the students, but for the environment as well.

Accessibility and Service: Colleges accommodate all dietary preferences, have a variety of options for students to choose from, and make sure that the dining options are conveniently located to students’ dorms. Dining locations on campus that were open late night or whose meal plans let students purchase off-campus food were given special consideration.

Education and Events: Colleges offer nutrition and culinary education to every student on campus, and they also hold multiple exciting and delicious food-centered events to foster community and break the monotony of the dining experience.

Surrounding Area: Students have access to exciting and vast food options in the area surrounding the college and can access it easily. We compiled information from Yelp to find out the quality and accessibility of all the food around campuses within a 5-mile radius.

The “X” Factor: These are the little extras that made our jaws drop and set colleges ahead of the pack.

Even though the actual quality of the food was extremely important in our ranking, the overall dining experience, including the surrounding area, is what really determined which colleges made the cut and which didn’t.  For example, New York University’s meal plan gives student the options to use their campus cash at over 20 restaurants in the food Mecca that is Manhattan. James Madison University hosts farm-to-fork dinners to encourage students to eat seasonally and sustainability. Columbia University has two late-night dining options for student night owls, and UC Davis utilizes produce grown in their campus garden for meals. Vanderbilt University has a Dining Advisory Committee, comprised of students, university staff, and dining staff, that monitors all aspects of the dining experience. 

Some of the more expensive colleges had more extensive sustainability efforts, and, even though they are rated highly academically, it wasn’t always the Ivy League colleges who came out on top. Smaller colleges often had a better program that could cater to each and every students need due to the low population. In general, though, students have become more and more in tune to what good food is, and the colleges that paid attention to that and designed their dining programs around that were the most impressive.

Several colleges didn’t make the list this year for many reasons. Dartmouth College, which made the list last year, just fell short of the mark because although its food program is still impressive, other colleges made vast improvements that overshadowed it. Other colleges didn’t offer enough variety in the events that were offered, or didn’t take sustainability as seriously as others. We have really considered every aspect of the dining experience, and through that have determined the best colleges for food in America.

We’ve tried to highlight the most impressive and most delicious aspects for each of the colleges on this list. If you’re a food-lover who wants to go to a college as passionate as you are, then you might want to get those transfer forms ready after you check out our picks for the 75 Best Colleges for Food in America.

Did we miss any? Let us know! Leave us a comment about food on your campus and we’ll consider it for next year. 

75. Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

74. Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

73. Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

72. Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA

71. University of California — Irvine, Irvine, CA

70. California Baptist University, Riverside, CA

69. Carleton College, Northfield, MN

68. Elon University, Elon, NC

67. Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

66. Carroll University, Waukesha, WI

65. California State University, Chico, Chico, CA

64. College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA

63. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

62. Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

61. Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH

60. University of Washington, Seattle, WA

59. The New School, Manhattan, NY

58. Colby College, Waterville, ME

57. University of Delaware, Newark, DE

56. Stanford University, Stanford, CA

55. Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA

54. Tufts University, Medford, MA

53. University of California — Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

52. Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA

51. Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

50. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT

49. Saint Lawrence University, Canton, NY

48. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

47. Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI

46. Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA

45. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME

44. University of Houston, Houston, TX

43. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

42. University of California — Davis, Davis, CA

41. Brown University, Providence, RI

40. University of Richmond, Richmond, VA

39. Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

38. Bates College, Lewiston, ME

37. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

36. University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

35. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

34. Connecticut College, New London, CT

33. High Point University, High Point, NC

32. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

31. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

30. University of San Diego, San Diego, CA

29. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

28. University of California — Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

27. Pitzer College, Claremont, CA

26. University of Massachusetts — Amherst, Amherst, MA

25. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

24. St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN

23. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

22. Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

21. Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

20. Yale University, New Haven, CT

19. University of California — San Diego, San Diego, CA

18. Miami University, Oxford, OH

17. University of Georgia, Athens, GA

16. James Madison University, Harrisburg, VA

15. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

14. Mills College, Oakland, CA

13. University of California — Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

12. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

11. Emory University, Atlanta, GA

10. Boston University, Boston, MA

9. Duke University, Durham, NC

8. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA

7. New York University, New York, NY

6. University of Rochester, Rochester, NY

5. Northwestern University, Evanston IL

4. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

3. Columbia University, New York, NY

2. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

1. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

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Please consider St. Norbert College in De Pere WI. We feature a very vivacious menu for our students in all of our dining units. Our motto is "Radical Hospitality" I think you would be very impressed with our independent dining service. <a href="http://www.snc.edu" title="www.snc.edu">www.snc.edu</a>


Reed College has amazing food


Michigan State University was missed. This university has one of the largest self-operated Culinary Services departments in the nation with an award-winning food truck, many sustainable efforts, renovated dining halls, local partnerships, made-to-order food and more. You are encouraged to check them out: <a href="http://www.eatatstate.com.Pro" title="www.eatatstate.com.Pro">www.eatatstate.com.Pro</a>


Where is Lawrence University? It's organic, locally grown, and very tasty. Food is labeled for gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan. Their weekend brunch is the best!


There is no way rochester should be that high. I have eaten at many of the others on this list and Rochester should be way, lower. Very few customization options for dietary restrictions unless you really like salad. Note the food is always better when they know parents or alumni are going to be around.


Villanova University Dining Services was missed! We have incredible variety, special events, and we're seriously focused on nutrition and sustainability.


Savannah College of Art & Design has the best college food I've ever seen - fresh and local.


ahahahaha that's funny because I go to SCAD and the food is meh.. they put out spoiled fruit and undercook the burgers sometimes also though it does improve each year. Maybe the Savannah campus is good? I go to the Atlanta campus.


no cu boulder damn these losers makin this are grade A chumps


Please look at University of New Hampshire...I had the pleasure of dining there and if I lived in Durham would buy a student meal ticket instead of grocery shopping....


Obviously. you haven't been to Roanoke College Va.
Unbelievable home made farm grown food. Sunday brunch
is so scrumptious , seniors are still eating in the Commons!


You overlooked Hampshire College in Amherst MA. They are in the forefront of sustainable cuisine. You need to do a better job in your research department.


Messiah College has GREAT Culinary and Sustainability programs!!! All in house and the quality is outstanding!


Univerisity of Vermont not on the list? Are you kidding?


Add Cottey College in Nevada MO to your list to check out. Their chef has his own cook book and the town residents love to get invited to campus to eat in the dining room. Home cooking in a dorm environment!


I second this. Fantastic food!


I second this. Fantastic food!


I THIRD! this...Cottey's Brunch is delicious. I have the cookbook. And anytime I drive through that town....that is where I eat.


Gettysburg food is horrible and outdated. How could it make this list??!


Columbia shouldn't even be on this list, let alone #3


Hopkins number 2 my ass - on-campus dining on hopkins is average at best


^ this


Hey, Daily Meal! The photo you have posted for Grinnell College wasn't even taken in the TOWN of Grinnell, much less on the Grinnell College campus. Really? That's the best you can do? Use a photo from Flickr just because someone is wearing a GC sweatshirt? Please. A quick search would have yielded the desired results. <a href="http://www.grinnell.edu/about/visit/spaces/marketplace-dining-hall" title="http://www.grinnell.edu/about/visit/spaces/marketplace-dining-hall">http://www.grinnell.edu/about/visit/spaces/marketplace-dining-hall</a>


University of Montana. Your family can send in recipes from home and the university chooses certain dishes to make, and if the dish is popular enough, they add it to their regular menu. Plus the food zoo. Enough said. Most vegetarian friendly place ever as well, also vegan friendly.


Just found out that they compost all the food we don't eat and it to grow more food on campus in the garden. And that gluten free line tho.


This is NYU propaganda. Campus cash isn't part of the ridiculously expensive meal plan. You add money to your student ID and you can use it at certain food stores. Since there's no discount, no one uses campus cash. NYU dining contracts out to Aramark which is one of the worst corporate food providers in terms of sustainability (and taste I would add as a recent undergrad student). Please do more research than contacting NYU dining or their propaganda machine.


James Madison University is in HARRISONBURG, VA not Harrisburg (which is in PA). Check your facts before publishing an article. Kay thanks!


Go Dukes!!


The new food company is amazing jealous noob.


I have to say, VERY disappointed Northeastern University isn't on here. Maybe y'all didn't try it, but if you've ever visited one of the three dining halls on campus I promise that you would have a fantastic experience. The newest hall, the International Village Dining Hall, is one of only 168 restaurants in the COUNTRY that are 3-star certified green restaurants. Additionally, the IV dining hall has certified options for gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Halal AND Kosher students. Because it is the "international village," IV also features--you guessed it--international food. From the custom-made fresh salads and falafel, to the certified Kosher station with hot and cold dishes, to clearly labelled gluten-free items, you are guaranteed to find food that is both fantastic and fits every dietary need you could imagine.

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