We used the data for our 2014 Best College’s for Food in America to pin Duke University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Kentucky, and Michigan State up against each other to determine who really wins the College Food Final Four. The rankings were based on nutrition and sustainability, accessibility and service, education and events, and food in the surrounding areas.
Duke University won in a landslide (they actually made our list for 75 best colleges for food), probably because of its on-campus delivery service. Because if you can stay in bed and eat, why wouldn’t you?
The University of Kentucky came in second, but did not follow close behind.
Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison made up the losers bracket, with Wisconsin just barely skipping past Michigan. Neither schools have late-night dining options on campus, so there’s that.
Duke has over 30 locations on campus serving fare that sounds more suited to a fine dining restaurant than a college dining hall, such as pan-seared diver scallops with a basil pistou, carved-to-order porchetta with salsa verde, and gnocchi and sage au gratin. Don’t feel like leaving your bed? Don’t you worry: there are 17 locations on Duke’s campus that will deliver your meal right to your dorm. Impressed yet? Well, if that hasn’t gotten you, maybe the fact that there are seven (yes, we said seven) food trucks on campus that serve anything from Greek cuisine to tacos to crêpes will win you over. Seriously, whatever you want, wherever you want it, you can get it at Duke. But even with all these delicious options, you’re still going to be eating healthily. Duke Dining partnered with the university’s on-campus nutritionist to create the Balance Your Plate program, which is designed to help students build a healthy and delicious plate of food. The Chef’s Chatter Series focuses on one healthy food item a month and how to cook, eat, and enjoy that food in many different ways. Oh yeah, and Duke Dining also holds over 60 events every year, with each month featuring a large-scale event like the ever-popular Cruise Themed Dinner. Do you see anything wrong with this program? Because we don’t.
The University of Kentucky is known for its farm-to-table restaurant, the Local Taco. The vegan-friendly menu has loads of campus favorites, such as the derby salad and some to-die-for fish tacos. Missy’s Pie is also a longtime favorite among students at the University. Since 1989, the famous pies have contributed to the homegrown culture of Wildcat country. Kentucky’s website touts its Green Thread program, which works to implement sustainable dining options on campus and sources the majority of on-campus food locally. However, there are no late-night dining options for the ever-popular fourth meal post-library cram session.
Home of the largest producer-only farmer’s market in the country, the University of Wisconsin has fresh produce covered. The Dane County Farmer's Market is UW students’ best bet for fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, and meats. Cooper’s Tavern, a Madison mainstay, continues to be a favorite among beer lovers, with the largest selection of craft beer in the city. Unfortunately, there is no mention of sustainability efforts on the campus website, and there are no late-night dining options for those in student housing.
If you "Eat at State," you will be treated to cherry turnovers, Mediterranean spinach sauté, and Korean BBQ beef tips, among other items. The East Lansing university uses local foods like apples, blueberries, and beef in its meals, and — in cooperation with the student organic farm — provides fresh herbs and produce to students. The MSU Bakers, located right on campus, supply fresh-made bagels, hand-decorated cookies, and cakes to those in need of a sugar rush. What a sweet way to keep it local! Every residential dining facility serves fair-trade coffee, and all new employees are educated about energy conservation and waste reduction. Seems the Spartans are green in more ways than one.