#5 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) from 75 Best Colleges for Food for 2017
75 Best Colleges for Food for 2017
We take food very seriously at The Daily Meal. Therefore, we believe that in choosing your higher education, food is an important factor to consider. Every year since 2012, we’ve ranked the top colleges for food in America. (In case you missed it, here are our lists from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.) This year is no different, so we’ve run yet another survey in order to bring you the top 75 colleges for food in 2017.
#75 Franklin and Marshal College (Lancaster, Pa.)
There isn’t nearly enough space here to list all the things Franklin and Marshall College does in the name of freshness, sustainability, and dietary needs... but we’ll try. The milk, produce, and meat are farmed locally; vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, international, and organic choices are available all over campus, and everywhere you turn, Franklin and Marshall is saving the world in some way. This includes daily composting, supporting fair trade, using only recycled and/or biodegradable dinnerware, tray-less dining, eco-friendly appliances, and recycling almost everything used. The school also has numerous food-related events every month, such as Meatless Mondays (which helps with water waste), a monthly kosher-fest, a specially prepared Chef’s Table lunch, catered and reservation-only Crave Dinners, and Wellness lunches with the campus dietitian. The meal plans are plenty flexible and allow students their fill of diverse and healthy choices.
#74 Ohio University (Athens, Ohio)
Ohio University has made some big changes since last year, having renovated its West 82 Food Court and added a create-your-own frozen açai and yogurt bowl station. Latitude 39, a restaurant inspired by old English pubs, was also renovated and given a new menu. Last year’s renovation of The District on West Green was also awarded the Project Design of the Year Award from Food Service & Equipment Magazine. Ohio University has also been dedicated to increasing their local produce purchases, and the university composts 100 percent of all food waste. Ohio University is constantly updating facilities, having renovated every single one of its venues in the last 10 years.
#73 Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.)
Just because Carleton College is small doesn’t mean you should underestimate its dining program. Boneless pork chops with roasted red potatoes, steamed cauliflower, caramelized red onions, and warm cinnamon apple sauce; eggplant parmesan with roasted red pepper polenta fries; and roasted butternut squash soup with wilted kale are just a few of the drool-worthy options on the menu at Carleton’s dining hall. Sayles Café now has all new late-night options this year, and the university has also rolled out a new station in East Dining and a grill-out tailgate party before Saturday games. The university’s Mug Club Program also exists to encourage university members to utilize reusable drinkware.
And if you ever have any questions about food and health, you can dine with the dietitian. Other awesome things going on at this liberal arts school include a Star Wars-themed “May the 4th Be With You” dinner, a Mardi Gras celebration, and a farm bike tour
#72 Denison University (Granville, Ohio)
When Denison University was asked to supply a list of the things they’re doing to promote healthy eating on campus, they responded with a list of almost 100 regulations that are (and must be) followed to ensure properly balanced diets within their facilities — including controls for freshness, dietary restrictions, and nutritional breakdowns.
This is an awful lot for a school that enrolls only 2,150 students. Rivaling this list was the rundown of programs and events featured by the school, including the Clean Plate Club, Farm to Fork, the Food Recovery Network, and “Dining Sustainability” fellowships. The school uses Greenies (eco-friendly and reusable to-go containers), offers local sodas (and the ability for students to make their own), and even issues fair trade and organic uniforms to dining services employees. In other changes, Huffman Hall was completely remodeled three years ago, and Curtis Hall has just finished its remodeling this year. Denison students also now have access to a mobile coffee bike, as well as an “icetrike” for sporting events as well as outside sales.
#71 University of Southern California (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Even though this school is located smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, USC works hard to make sure that all of their 19,000 undergraduate students have an amazing variety of food within their reach on campus. There are nearly 40 dining venues on campus, ranging from a popular on-campus bar and grill called Traditions to a fine-dining restaurant called Moreton Fig and a gastropub named The Lab. At USC’s three residential dining halls (where theme nights are held every month), menus are anchored by made-from-scratch stocks and sauces, and instead of the big “troughs” you’ll find at most cafeterias, small serving vessels allow employees to portion out smaller batches of freshly cooked food. USC’s chefs work closely with their full-time dietitian to make sure that recipes include lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains, and the school has implemented a program to ensure that local, sustainable, and organic foods are served at every dining hall daily, including some herbs and vegetables grown on campus. Vegan and vegetarian options are available at every dining hall, and weekly farmers markets are held on campus.
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#70 University of California, Irvine (Irvine, Calif.)
In 2010, UC Irvine established the first zero-waste dining facility in the UC system, which is massively impressive. At all three of the college’s dining halls, all solid organic waste is anaerobically digested and the resulting biogas helps fuel the Irvine Ranch Water District. As for the students, UC Irvine treats them well. The university often hosts popular local food trucks at campus festivals as well as events like Mediterranean Night and the Lunar Festival. Thirty-two percent of all food purchases for the school’s dining halls are sustainable, and food is sourced from more than 130 vendors within 250 miles of campus.
#69 Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Located in Downtown Pittsburgh, Duquesne is home to nearly 10,000 well-fed students. Soups and sauces are made fresh daily, and even the pizza dough and fries are made from scratch. Thanks to an initiative called FarmSource, 20 percent of the food served on campus is sourced from 250 growers and food producers situated within a 150-mile radius of the school, and the amount of composted food has doubled in the past four years. Each of Duquesne’s 11 dining locations highlights seasonal offerings and features rotating menus based on what’s freshly available, and at least three or four food-focused events are held per week. The Hogan Dining Center (Duquesne’s main dining hall) was completely renovated five years ago and four additional locations received updates or complete overhauls since then, as well as the addition of new ice cream sundae and salad stations. This past summer, a renovation of the fifth floor of Duquesne’s student union has made room for a Chick-fil-A and Cinco Cantina, and the campus Starbucks has had an overhaul too. Students also now have a Chobani Creation Bar at The Incline as well as Rockwell Market. Pop-ups are now quite frequent as well; they take place late at night or as pop-ups served near residence halls and communicated to students through social media. Further adding to this healthy-unhealthy dichotomy, Hogan doubled the number of vegetarian and vegan options, while Late Night Cookies began offering baked goods between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. every night. The Red Ring Bar and Grille, located right on campus, is a popular spot for happy hour and pre-game meals. As an added bonus, The Red Ring is currently in the final stages of becoming a Sustainable Pittsburgh-certified Green Restaurant.
#68 Colby College (Waterville, Maine)
The menu options at Colby College are enough to make your mouth water. BLT pizza, jasmine rice, and red beans, meatball flatbread sandwiches, and hash brown quiche are just a few of the selections, but we think you get the picture. Colby College also has a few iconic food destinations surrounding the campus, such as Big G’s Deli, where the sandwiches are bigger than your head. Just this year, they’ve started a performance bowls program and added a make-your-own crêpe station, taqueria station, and skewers program on campus, as well as a vegan desert bar. There’s also a new Sunday brunch available for students, provided in partnership with the Colby Museum of Art. And if all that isn’t enough to entice you, Colby College is serious when it comes to sustainability: They source their produce locally, send pre- and post-consumer waste to a composting facility, and donate produce from the student-run garden to local food pantries. All students have unlimited access to the school’s three dining halls from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and some on-campus eateries even offer dorm delivery.
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#67 Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, Pa.)
Bryn Mawr’s menu options are consistently amazing. Each semester there are dozens of themed dining events — like Milkshake Mania, complete with a make-your-own milkshake option, and the French Peasant’s Lunch, which features assorted cheeses, breads, and grapes.
And those are just the options for special occasions. On a daily basis, students can get food such as chocolate chip pancakes, Tex-Mex egg rolls, white-bean-stuffed peppers, and baked flounder with braised mushrooms. Going to Bryn Mawr is sort of like eating at a fine-dining restaurant, and we wouldn’t mind enjoying a few dinners there.
Facebook/Temple University Dining Services
#66 Temple University (Philadelphia, Pa.)
It’s only fitting that the dining theme at Temple University in Philadelphia appears to be “freedom.” To start, the school offers a whopping 14 different meal plans for use at two all-you-care-to-eat locations, two large food courts, and 11 smaller retail venues. A dozen of these meal plans include “Diamond Dollars” that can also be used off campus. Want to eat exclusively kosher? There’s a campus Hillel center that serves food as well as “kosher to go” locations at three other venues. How about vegan or vegetarian? The school has that covered in numerous locations as well, and partners with a subcontractor (Happy Hippy, owned by Temple alumni) just for this purpose. Gluten intolerant or have allergies? There’s a special area at each all-you-care-to-eat spots that is free from contamination. If you’re looking for fresh food, well, that includes just about everything on the menu. It appears the only thing Temple doesn’t have in its plans are “guest meals” for visitors, because students are free to use their meals on whomever they’d like. In short, dining restrictions are basically non-existent at Temple.
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#65 College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine)
The meat served at COA’s dining halls is humanely raised, and all the seafood is sustainably sourced, which is already enough to make us see hearts. But there’s so much more going on at the College of the Atlantic that makes it truly stand out.
The main Blair Dining Hall, known affectionately as “Take a Break” (or TAB), serves dishes like shrimp cakes with grilled portobello mushrooms, Thai red and green curry with beef and rice, roasted black bean and vegetable burritos, and COA Peggy Rockefeller Farms lamb or vegetable kebabs. And the delicious, healthy food doesn’t stop there. Students can find healthy vending machines in the Sea Urchin Café, which sells sandwiches, soups, cookies, yogurt, and fruit, and harvest dinners are held at their college-operated farms. In the past year, the school added 1,400 square feet of new greenhouse space at Beech Hill Farm and began construction on a poultry processing facility. COA previously pledged to make 20 percent of its food from organic, fair trade, and local sources by 2020 — a goal that has already been met and exceeded.
#64 Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.)
With menu options like balsamic roasted pork loin, vegetable and mushroom pot pie, and insanely creative pizzas, who wouldn’t want to eat at Wheaton College? And the menu isn’t the only thing setting this college apart from the rest. Wheaton’s dining services are dedicated to offering students the freshest, most sustainable options as often as possible. They roast bones to make soup and sauce stocks, roast the turkey and beef on site for deli meats, and make all baked goods daily and in small batches. More than 20 percent of the ingredients used in the dining halls are purchased from local vendors and transparency is very important to Wheaton, which uses numerous visible grills and woks so students know exactly how their food is being prepared. For students with dietary restrictions, every station has a vegetarian option and a special “At Your Service” area is always manned by a chef willing to whip up gluten-free, vegan, and other special meals.
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#63 Saint Lawrence University (Canton, N.Y.)
Even though sustainability and health are important to Saint Lawrence, they also focus on exactly what it is the students want. With that in mind, they created the “Recipe From Home” program, which has been going strong since 1987. The program encourages students to share family recipes to be served in the dining halls. Themed events throughout the year, such as the Canadian Thanksgiving feast, are also a hit with students.
And don’t worry, Saint Lawrence realizes that every once in a while students just need something greasy and comforting, which is why the on-campus pub serves delicious fried snacks like mac and cheese bites and onion rings, and the dining halls’ huge “pub cookies” are student favorites.
#62 Tulane University (New Orleans, La.)
New Orleans is one of the finest cities for food in America, and Tulane is located right in the heart of it. While students can venture off campus to eat if they want (the school’s “NOLA Bucks” can be used to purchase food at more than 20 local restaurants), Tulane’s 50 on-campus chefs and 25 dining locations provide everything they need, including meeting every kind of dietary restriction. All items are made from scratch, their late-night City Diner (open daily from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.) serves a famous 16-inch Big City Pancake, and the school hosts several New Orleans staple theme nights such as Red Bean Mondays, Fried Chicken Wednesdays, and Gumbo Fridays — in addition to more than 100 other campus dining events each year.
In a hip and unique twist, Tulane has two popular on-campus food trucks: Ironsides, which specializes in waffle sandwiches, and the new Roulez, which is the country’s first all-meal-plan food truck. Other recent additions include the remodeling of Bruff Commons and the retail food court in the last year, and word on the street is that a new taco bar and Panera location are also in the works. As for sustainability and health, the produce is purchased from 20 local farms, leftover meals are composted, and Tulane Dining works closely with the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and the Health and Wellness Center (which offers “Wellness Wednesdays”) to educate students on portioning and proper nutrition.
#61 Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, R.I.)
At the prestigious RISD, just as much care is given to the dining program as the curriculum. Run by the school instead of an outside company, RISD’s dining services offer four main venues as well as a bakery, and all recipes use local, seasonal, and fresh ingredients. There’s a nutritional education program called Eat + Learn that brings together the entire Providence community to celebrate local food, as well as an annual event called Eat the World where international students play a role in developing a menu of global dishes.
Over the past year, RISD has added online ordering, as well as the ability to use Dining Points at vending machines. To combat food insecurity, it has also instituted the Swipe It Forward program. Also now available on campus is a make-your-own smoothie station, customizable pizzas, and organic and customizable grain bowls.
Every Monday is Meatless Monday, and their annual 100-Mile Dinner uses only ingredients sourced within 100 miles of campus. The school takes sustainability very seriously; initiatives include recycling and composting, serving only humanely raised beef and all-natural chicken, and exclusively using Energy Star equipment and biodegradable cleaning solution. They also don’t sell any bottled water, have removed trays from dining venues, and recycle their frying oil with Newport Biodiesel. RISD’s largest dining venue, The Met, has recently undergone a thorough renovation, and their student-operated coffee house, Carr House, offers organic coffee, cupcakes, calzones, and other locally sourced treats. In the past few years, additions to their dining program have included a crêperie, a Jamba Juice, and even a Game of Thrones-themed dinner. Pizza is also available for delivery to art studios until 12:30 a.m.
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#60 University of Washington (Seattle, Wash.)
The University of Washington is in Seattle, which means students have access to some pretty amazing restaurants right at their doorstep. (As well as a couple of the 50 best food halls in America for 2016.) But they definitely don’t need to wander far for incredible food. The UW farm grows fresh produce right on campus and dining services sells what they harvest at the District Market. And that isn’t the only move UW is making toward sustainability — students are all encouraged to eat locally and limit waste. An extra bonus is the fact that there are 15 dining options on campus — including two popular food trucks — so delicious food is always close by.
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#59 Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)
For a New England college, being able to offer locally sourced, always-fresh, never-frozen seafood is key. Add to that customizable and made-to-order dishes such as stir-fries, wraps, pastas, omelettes, salads, phở, and pizzas, and you’re in business. But the dining experience at Boston College involves so much more than just tasty food. BC recently reduced food waste by 60 percent in a single year, uses only fair trade coffee (including at the on-campus Starbucks), operates energy-saving equipment, sources much of its food from local farms, and donates the excess to more than 40 nonprofits in the greater Boston area. BC Dining offers a “Plain and Simple” dinner station completely free of the top eight food allergens.
Recent developments include a newly-formed Dining Advisory Board made up of over two dozen student leaders, representing multiple campus groups, who gave feedback on dining locations and events as part of BC Dining’s initiative to improve student dining experience. BC is also now labeling certain menu items as Menus of Change items as part of the program of the same name. Its new bowl station has a completely vegan bowl featured in Food Management Magazine and the NACUFS newsletter. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association also recognized multiple dining staff members with various awards, and the NACUFS gave its Loyal E. Horton bronze award in Retail Sales, Multiple Concept/Marketplace this year to the campus’ quick-service marketplace, Eagle’s Nest
Feel like watching behind-the-scenes videos about what goes on in the dining hall? At BC you can, with the school's Kitchen Confidential web series.
#58 Tufts University (Medford, Mass.)
Students have plenty of choices at Tufts with menu options like fresh mozzarella ovalini, old-fashioned rolled oats, and a roast beef sandwich complete with smoky bistro sauce. On top of that, the efforts made toward sustainability are impressive at Tufts. The college’s motto is “Think Global, Buy Local,” and they certainly live up to it. The fall farmers market gives students a chance to purchase local and fresh produce right on campus. Tufts’ dining services also only serves 100 percent cage-free eggs and sustainable fish like wild Pacific salmon and farmed tilapia.
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#57 University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
The Health and Wellness center at UCSB provides four-week training programs to interested students to educate them on healthy living. The program teaches students about positive body image, staying healthy during times of stress, how to properly read food labels, how to shop healthier on a budget, and so much more.
Every quarter, UCSB’s dining services has a Green Chef Competition to educate students on sustainability as well as to entertain. The dining services also make sure that their food reflects that sustainable mindset. Locally grown produce makes up 50 percent of the produce served in the dining halls — including the newly built Portola — and 25 percent of that is organically grown.
#56 Bates College (Lewiston, Maine)
Bates is home to a 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant, and the dining services use reusable dining ware at all outside events. Clearly this school is thinking sustainably, but they also make sure to serve some of the most delicious menu options we’ve seen, such as gluten-free baked tilapia, tofu and vegetable cacciatore, chipotle-rubbed beef, grilled ginger tuna, and grilled polenta with roasted vegetables.
And if that isn’t enough to entice you, the events they hold definitely will: a Valentine’s Day Poem Concert, an annual Harvest Meal, and more. Their dining services welcome feedback and are constantly working to improve the offerings, which is why Bates gives students a chance to make their voices heard with the virtual napkin board. All beef is from local providers, and the school’s food advisory committee and sustainability committee ensure issues like education and waste reduction are addressed
#55 Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt.)
Middlebury’s mission when it comes to dining is to “nourish and nurture today and tomorrow, sustaining mind, body, and earth.” They live up to that motto by serving healthful and delicious options like quinoa-stuffed peppers, marinated Italian chicken thighs, and lamb scaloppini. And Middlebury makes sure the food they serve is sustainable and comes from good sources. The dining services buys exclusively from local vendors and tries to educate students on sustainable efforts that they can make when it comes to food. They’ve also updated three of their retail food locations on campus and now offer upscale bagel sandwiches at their library, as well as juice and smoothies in their arts building.
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#54 Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah)
Less waste goes to landfills from BYU dining services than from just about any other school with a dining program of a comparable size. That’s a pretty great achievement, but it’s not all that sets Brigham Young apart. The Creamery on Ninth East (CONE) is a full-service grocery store on campus, the first of its kind in all of America. Even with all these achievements, BYU isn’t about to settle. Every Thursday, an on-campus farmers market sells the freshest produce to students, and dining services educates students on everything from nutrition to cooking tips in a newsletter called MIX.
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#53 Roger Williams University (Bristol, R.I.)
Roger Williams’ dining services are committed to sustainable practices and healthy eating. The school participates in the Eat Local Challenge and Low Carbon Diet Day, and they also make all carryout containers compostable and use only cage-free eggs and humanely raised beef. But if you’re craving something a bit less health-conscious, the university is also home to the “Stonewall Stuffer,” a Thanksgiving-style wrap named after one of the campus dorms. The taste and quality of the food is also a priority, which is why menu items include vegetable- and egg-fried rice, chicken scallopini with lemon butter sauce, and penne with Italian sausage and marinara, as well as the student-favorite chicken fingers and mac & cheese. The university also has an annual lobster-steak dinner every April. Even with its traditions, however, the university has made many renovations over the summer, rehauling a café into a taqueria-style restaurant and giving their small dining hall a new kitchen and dish-return area.
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#52 Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.)
At Ball State, seven professional chefs prepare made-from-scratch dishes in small batches, and menus rotate on a four-week schedule. This year, the school has brought a food truck on campus, with a menu that includes healthy items. Everything — from salad dressings to house-smoked ribs — is prepared in house, and everything from sandwiches and salads to wraps, pizzas, pastas, stir-fries, and nachos is entirely customizable. An online menu and nutrition information system also allows students to see what’s being served at every meal, and a registered dietitian is on hand to meet with students to put together individual meal programs that are right for them. Produce is sourced locally as much as possible, and they’ve nearly doubled their sustainable seafood purchases as compared to last year. There’s an on-campus greenhouse for herbs, and disposables are recyclable, compostable, and unbleached. In fact, students were given dining bags at the start of this year that can now be purchased for just $1, and there are also three new reusable drink containers available for a discount-fill program. Ball State is also going for trayless dining in multiple locations, as well as removing all plastic bags by 2018. There are plenty of food-focused events throughout the year, the largest of which is The Amazing Taste, an international festival where foods from more than 20 countries are served to 2,500 attendees.
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#51 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
More than 4.4 million meals are served every year to UNC Chapel Hill’s 18,350 undergraduate students, and menu development is a collaborative process that involves the school’s executive chef, residential chefs, general manager, food service directors, marketing team, and in-house registered dietitian. They’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to source food sustainably: Nearly 30 percent of all food served comes from within 250 miles of campus, and nearly 20 percent is AASHE-certified as ecologically sound, fair, and humane. They’ve also received the 2015 NACUFS Gold Award for their commitment to the environment and food waste reduction initiatives, which includes a reusable container program, tray-free dining, fryer oil recycling, and the donation of 200 pounds of leftovers to food banks weekly. There are 24 on-campus eateries and two main dining halls, at which you’ll find a regular schedule of special events and programming ranging from days highlighting ingredients like white pumpkin and kohlrabi to weekly tastings and samplings. All of their eateries have undergone renovations or upgrades within the past five years, and they’ve even partnered with several local ethnic restaurants to allow them to offer their food on campus. As for the food itself? It’s so good that student favorites have even made their way into a collegiate cookbook.
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#50 University of Houston (Houston, Texas)
There are more than 30 dining locations on University of Houston’s campus, including Cougar Woods, a nut-free facility for students with severe allergies. Basically, whatever you want, you can get it at U of Houston. Dining services participate in Meatless Mondays to encourage healthy and sustainable eating among its students, and the college’s six-part interactive cooking series, “What’s Cooking, Coogs,” gives students a chance to learn more about how to cook well and eat well. Students also have access to some delicious food surrounding campus, including Texas favorites such as barbecue, Tex-Mex, and fried chicken.
#49 Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa.)
Dickinson College’s dining service is completely tray-free, and the school composts 100 percent of its consumer and production waste. It is always trying to improve on sustainability by increasing the seasonality of the menus and including healthier vending options. Dickinson keeps students updated on healthy eating tips online, and the on-campus farm hosts cooking and food preservation classes. Organic fruits and vegetables are grown on the Dickinson College Farm, free meals are provided during exam week and for seniors leading up to commencement, and an annual harvest fest celebrates fresh local food. On top of all that, Dickinson has some delicious options around campus that students are crazy for, including the pizza at Miseno’s, the homemade frozen custard at Massey’s, and the homemade ice cream at Leo’s, which was named one of the nation’s best ice cream shops by TripAdvisor.
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#48 Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
It makes sense that Princeton University has made this list, seeing as Princeton itself made our list of best college towns in the country for food. The dining halls throw dozens of themed meals and events throughout the year, and the everyday menu is just as impressive as the special events spreads. Menu items include mushroom and spinach quesadillas, pesto pork chops, and panzanella salad, so Princeton is clearly out to impress. Princeton dining also offers a Lunch-to-Go program, which lets students order their lunches in bags and take them out of the dining hall. And all this is small stuff compared to the Visiting Chefs Program, which features a recreation of a chef’s restaurant menu, served buffet-style.
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#47 Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, Calif.)
The dining services at Harvey Mudd College have partnered with My Fitness Pal to ensure that the students can track the nutrition of every food served on campus. The dining halls on campus are also completely tray-less and feature reusable cups and to-go containers, so the health of the planet is given as much attention as the health of the students. A popular event at Harvey Mudd is the Copper Chef Competition, in which students from the different residence halls form teams and compete Iron Chef-style.
Some Crust Bakery, which has been open since 1916, is family-run, and it’s a hotspot for students. All milk is hormone-free and locally sourced, all seafood is sustainable, and during peak season, most of its produce is sourced from within 150 miles. Harvey Mudd also has “Simple Servings,” a resident dining option that provides safe and appetizing food options for students with food allergies or other dietary restrictions.
Facebook/UC Davis Dining Commons
#46 University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)
If there’s anything wrong with UC Davis’ dining program, we couldn’t find it. To start off, dining hall fare includes dishes like falafel lentil cakes, mandarin chicken salad, and white chocolate raspberry scones. But if you don’t like those options, you could participate in Take a Taste, an event that lets students sample and critique certain dishes, or you could download the mobile dining app, which students can use to communicate directly with dining services. Theme nights at UC Davis include a Harry Potter dinner, a fondue night, and a sushi night.
Sustainability is also very important to UC Davis, and the Field-to-Table program teaches students and the community about healthy living as well.
#45 Connecticut College (New London, Conn.)
The area surrounding Connecticut College has a solid overall Yelp rating, which means that the food nearby is easy to access and delicious. But what really makes Connecticut College stand out is everything they are doing on campus. New England clam chowder, teriyaki pork tenderloin, vegetable lasagna, and white cheese broccoli pizza are just a few of the mouth-watering options on the menu.
But that’s not all — each semester is packed with themed dining events like the Happy Halloween Celebration, international dinners, and Festivus in December. And if you’re worried about sustainability, don’t be. The on-campus garden, Sprout, is entirely organic, and the dining program prides itself on reducing waste by recycling and composting. Also, if you’re of legal drinking age, you should definitely hit the Cro Bar.
#44 Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.)
The culinary program at Georgia Tech is centered around local and sustainable food, and nearly every single item served there is made fresh daily — from the pizza sauce to the pastries to the salad dressings. Additionally, every step of their culinary process is sustainable. Only cage-free eggs, sustainable seafood, and grass-fed Angus beef are served, and there’s even a full-time sustainability coordinator on staff. Don’t expect to find any dining halls at this Atlanta school, however; they were reimagined from the top down in the spring of 2015 and are now called community restaurants. The newest addition, West Village, opened this past August with cuisine from all over the world to serve Georgia Tech’s diverse population. Another of the school’s restaurants, Brittain, was recently named one of the most stunning college dining halls in the South by Southern Living Magazine. Recipes were rewritten to include more fresh, house-made items; the culinary process was refined to be sustainable at every level; and fresh-baked pastries and desserts were added. Classic American, Mediterranean, Southeast Asian, and Latin cuisine can be found at the community restaurants, or you can go just a bit off-campus to eat at restaurants like Atlanta classic The Varsity or Lucky Buddha.
#43 Rollins College (Winter Park, Fla.)
At Rollins College, students’ health is the name of the dining game. The college educates students about eating and living healthily with opportunities to meet a dietician, cooking classes with the executive chef, and a mindful eating program. And the health of the planet is just as important. Rollins College exclusively purchases ingredients from certified vendors with sustainable distribution practices. And just because Rollins’ dining services are operated by major food management company Sodexo doesn’t mean that the food they serve isn’t as creative and delicious as that at a smaller college. Menu options at Rollins include diver scallops, ginger tofu stir-fry, shrimp Portofino, and chipotle chicken Veracruz. With five dining halls on campus, a café serving Starbucks coffee, and a new pub-style restaurant called Dave’s Boathouse that opened last fall, it isn’t hard to find what you want to eat when on campus.
Facebook/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
#42 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.)
Dining at MIT is all about health and flavor, which is why the menu features items like squash ratatouille with quinoa, eggplant stuffed with herbed tofu, fish tacos with chipotle sauce, lime coleslaw and black beans over rice, and truffled roast beef with buttered leeks. MIT also now has a traveling sushi chef who will make rolled-to-order fresh sushi every weekday. The Farm-to-Fork program is one of the reasons the food is so fresh and delicious, and dining services have dedicated themselves to offering whole-grain options, encouraging protein consumption, and reducing sodium.
Healthy cooking classes are now available, and students can learn how to prepare meals on a budget. Professional nutrition counseling is also available for students who want advice on portion control and general healthy eating. And if that weren’t enough, the kitchens, cafés, and loading docks all offer online virtual tours so students can keep an eye on what’s going on behind the scenes.
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#41 Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.
Named the #1 Best College Food in Pennsylvania for 2017 by Niche, Muhlenberg College has also made the top 20 campus food lists by the Princeton Review for 2016, 2017, and 2018, as well as The Huffington Post’s 14 Best College Dining Halls in America in 2014. It’s not hard to see why. With a newly launched dining app, students have access to soups, pizza dough, pancakes, and pasta that are all house-made, as are the hand-cut fries, peanut butter, and cheese. Vegetables and meat come from local farms and are turned into nutritionally balanced meals in a wide variety of cuisines from Cajun to Indian. Sustainability is emphasized as well, and practices include the operation of a hydroponic herb garden, use of reusable to-go containers and eco-friendly paper products, the offering of only fair trade coffee, and an on-site pulper that reduces waste by almost 90 percent. Students can easily use their meal plan all around campus and will find vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options at every meal. Muhlenberg even has a kosher program that is overseen by two mashgichim. (A mashgiach is a supervisor who ensures that the food follows Jewish dietary laws.) Even with all this, the school doesn’t forget about the fun element and features multiple food-focused events every month, including Battle of the Chefs, Pi Day, a visiting global chef program, different holiday celebrations from around the world and the annual Late Night Breakfast before spring finals.
#40 Wesleyan Universit (Middletown, Conn.)
Wesleyan’s vegan food service program was named No. 1 in the nation by PETA for the 2012 – 2013 school year, which is impressive in and of itself. But when you look at other menu options — such as tandoori chicken with basmati rice and stewed chickpeas and an apple dessert pizza topped with sweetened cream — you start to realize how amazing the dining program at Wesleyan really is.
Events on the Wesleyan campus include themed holiday dinners and a biweekly Chef’s Table, where students and others gather to discuss current and future goals for the dining program. The Chef’s Table serves fresh ingredients for sampling and offers a cooking course to educate students about sustainable culinary practices.
Facebook/Chartwells Dining Services - Carroll University
#39 Carroll University (Waukesha, Wis.)
All the meals at Carroll University are made in house, from scratch, and are never frozen, so students always have the freshest options — including fresh herbs and peppers from an on-campus garden. And we guarantee you will never be bored with Carroll’s weekly events, especially since they’ve hosted awesome options like the Halloween Zombie Attack dinner and chef-hosted tastings. As for sustainability, Carroll University has partnered with Greener Fields Together, which uses a seed-to-fork approach to engage students and provide them with fresh, environmentally sound produce. As for recent developments, an eatery called Grill Nation opened last fall, a newly purchased grinder and dehydrator turns uneaten food into compost, and this year, all incoming freshmen will receive reusable to-go containers in order to completely eliminate the use of disposable plates and boxes in the main dining room. Carroll University was also recognized by PETA with an “A” grade for its efforts in providing vegetarian and vegan options.
#38 University of Chicago (Chicago, Ill.)
The University of Chicago isn’t content to let its dining program stay the same, so it has a “mystery diner” program, which allows students, faculty, and professors to give feedback. The Campus Advisory Board also convenes twice a semester to discuss issues and figure out what is working and what needs improvement. While it constantly seeks to improve, the University of Chicago’s dining service is already pretty impressive. There are three residential dining halls, 10 cafés, and two markets, both of which are open until 3 a.m. for all the night owls on campus. Menu options range from ancho chipotle chicken stew to fried pollock in Creole sauce. The University of Chicago has it all when it comes to dining.
#37 Northeastern University (Boston, Mass.)
Each of Northeastern University’s three dining halls has a completely different theme: International Village offers everything from sushi to items made to order in its tandoor and brick ovens; Levine Marketplace’s eight stations serve a wide variety of home-style dishes including burgers, omelettes, and fan-favorite chocolate chip cookies; and Stetson West offers stir-fries made to order on a flattop, brick-oven pizzas and calzones, and specialty sandwiches and hot entrées. Every dining hall offers an extensive selection of vegetarian and vegan options, two have kosher options, and one has a special section for those with food allergies. Recurring series on the school’s dining blog include posts from the executive chef and nutritionist as well as tutorials on dorm cooking. All menu items are cooked in house in small batches, and partnerships with local organizations allow them to purchase native New England seafood and fresh produce from area farms. International Village was also the first restaurant in New England to earn both a 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant distinction and LEED Gold status. Many independent vendors both in and around campus accept meal plan dollars, including Whole Foods, and the school's display kitchen, called Xhibition Kitchen, features overhead cameras, induction stovetops, and round top tables for onlookers. They’ve hosted chefs including Jacques Pépin, Ming Tsai, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Top Chef winner Kristen Kish. Annual food-focused events include a Fall Food Fest, a Mardi Gras celebration, Lobstah Night, and an “Educate Your Palate” Global Gala.
Facebook/Virginia Tech Dining Services
#36 Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.)
Virginia Tech students have benefited this year from the expansion of the campus dining mobile ordering services as well as dining hours and food options. The university has made $900,000 worth of renovations at West End Market on campus, as well.
Sustainability at Virginia Tech is no joke. A farm sustainability manager is now working with the campus housing and residence life to bring sustainability practices into living spaces. The Farms and Fields project provides local and organic meals, including apple chutney and Cheddar panini made with local cheese and local organic bread. The on-campus garden is visited often by the community, and VT’s Meat Science Center serves meat that is produced and processed right on campus.
The Y.E.S. Program — You’re Eating (and Living) Smarter — educates students about eating healthy and living sustainably. Fostering a community is also very important at VT, and faculty-student dining days and backyard barbecues give students a chance to interact with their professors outside of the classroom.
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#35 High Point University (High Point, N.C.)
High Point University is another school that has added Tapingo as a service for online ordering for its students. Several times a year, the dining services at High Point feature local lunches, which means that everything served is sourced locally. And not only is the health of the planet important to HPU, but so is the health of its students. The school has recently hired an onsite nutritionist and a registered dietitian to help students develop a meal plan if they so choose. Nutrition information continues to be available for every item, and calorie-conscious options are always on the menu. But it’s not all serious business with HPU — this university also knows how to have fun. It stages nearly a dozen food-focused events every month, providing opportunities for students to interact, eat amazing food, and learn about healthy eating, sustainability, and different cultures. High Point’s unique 1924 PRIME operates as a high-end restaurant but is also a “learning lab” used to teach social and dining etiquette, and each month a different international cuisine is featured.
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#34 Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.)
The dining services at Purdue have partnered with the student-run farm, which provides local produce like fresh herbs and tomatoes. On top of that, each student is given a reusable to-go cup at the beginning of the year and using it gives him or her discounts at dining locations around campus. Clearly, Purdue takes a great interest in supporting sustainability, but it also recognizes that fun is an important part of any dining experience, which is why it holds cooking demonstrations and themed meals to break the monotony of college life. But with dishes like Cajun-seasoned chicken breast and bacon corn chowder soup, we think that Purdue dining is anything but monotonous. On top of all that, you can find Harry’s Chocolate Shop (a student favorite) and Triple XXX restaurant (which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) right near campus.
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#33 Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Mo.)
Orange pork stir-fry, a fresh fruit bar, and juicy barbecue are among the delicious options you can find at the dining halls at Washington University. The dining services host more than five events a week such as chef competitions, Dr. Seuss Night, and Low-Carbon Diet Day, so eating is as fun as it is delicious on this college campus. It’s clear that WashU is dedicated to giving its students the absolute best when it comes to food service, but it also takes sustainability seriously, which is why its facilities turn used cooking oil into biofuel, compost most waste, and source ingredients exclusively from local vendors. Washington University is known for school spirit, and it’s not hard to see why with dining credentials like these.
#32 University of San Diego (San Diego, Calif.)
If you’re going to the University of San Diego, plan on attending some truly amazing food events throughout the year, such as the Applefest in the fall and the Strawberry Fest in the spring. You can also participate in the school’s annual student cooking competition, where the winning prize is a feature in the dining halls.
On the sustainability front, the school uses a bio-digester to reduce waste and turn it into energy. It’s currently partnering with an engineering alum and an on-campus group to provide students with a solar-powered food cart that they can use for fundraising, projects, and more.
As for late-night dining, you’re covered with the campus food truck, or you could go to any of the 17 off-campus locations that accept University of SD Campus Cash. Your campus ID card can also activate RFID technology in the new serve-yourself cold brew tap wall at the campus coffeehouse, Aromas, so you no longer need to wait in line to wake yourself up! Barbecue lovers will also be happy; a new custom-built barbecue called Embers is also available and can be transported by students where they need it.
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#31 Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colo.)
Thanks to its dining services, Colorado State University has shot up quite far on our list after becoming the first STARS Platinum Rated University for sustainability, and it continues to strive to become a near zero-waste university. CSU also puts an enormous focus on providing fresh ingredients for its students, which is why they make menu items from scratch every day and often right in front of students — for instance, at the sizzling salad station, omelette and pancake bars, sushi bar, Mongolian grill and stir fry, barbecue smoker station, and bakery (which includes gluten-free items baked in a separate facility). The EatWell program (which also labels foods for dietary and allergy purposes) and on-campus dietitian emphasize the importance of healthy choices, and a nutrition kiosk is located at every dining facility. Meal plans for the five all-you-care-to-eat locations also include “RamCash” that can be used at more than 17 restaurants, coffee shops, and even the RamSkeller Pub, which offers live entertainment, pub food, and plenty of beer for students 21 and over. In addition to the sustainability efforts showcased by numerous LEED-certified buildings, CSU also donates leftover food, performs composting on campus, holds several zero-waste food events, and recently received a sustainability award from the National Association of College and University Food Services.
#30 University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)
If you’re a student at Berkeley, expect to have access to some of the best food around campus, as Berkeley is one of the best food towns in the country.
But don’t worry — the food served on campus is likely to be as good as anything you can get at a restaurant, with options like blackened fried catfish, red pepper and spinach pizza, and jerk chicken sandwiches. And you can rest assured that administrators at UC Berkeley are just as dedicated to environmental stewardship as they are to their students’ taste buds. The school is completely committed to the farm-to-table initiative Chews to Reuse (a reusable to-go container project) and to environmentally responsible purchasing practices.
#29 University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Being situated in Philadelphia definitely doesn’t hurt the University of Pennsylvania’s dining options. This school has one of the highest overall Yelp ratings of all colleges considered, but UPenn doesn’t stop there. Buffalo hot wings; vegan chili made with local squash, onion, peppers, tomatoes, cumin, and cilantro; gnocchi with roasted vegetables; and roast beef with rosemary gravy, horseradish mashed potatoes, and honey-glazed carrots are just a few of the meals you can get on campus.
UPenn has brought a lot of changes to campus this past year too. Tapingo, a mobile ordering system, has increased convenience for students, and the university has also expanded its halal program at English House, as well as introduced Jain entrées at three of its dining locations. Hill House underwent an $85 million renovation for this fall and now has a state-of-the-art kitchen as well as a production kitchen.
One of the ways that UPenn ensures that their food is delicious is by sourcing locally and following a farm-to-fork philosophy. Students can also participate in sustainability efforts with the Green2Go program, which reduces waste by using disposable to-go containers, or take on the Low-Carbon Diet Day and the Eat Local Challenge.
#28 Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
Miami University boasts multiple conveniently located dining locations all around campus, including two 24/7 locations, a ‘50s-style diner in the student union, and a convenience store selling snacks and standard groceries.
And if you’re eating on campus, you can always find out what nutrients your meal contains. The online menu allows students to view nutrition information, and Miami U. constantly updates its social media sites with tips on healthy living and weight management, helpful nutrition resources, or just fun facts to brighten the students’ days. Speaking of brightening days, the dining services also throws fun events for the whole student body, including themed meals like Cultivating Community and an annual Farm-to-Fork dinner held on site at a local farm. All meals are made in-house using fresh ingredients, nearly 25 percent of all ingredients are from local growers and companies, and the entire menu was rethought top to bottom last year in response to a student survey. All of the dining operations on campus are set to be fully remodeled by 2018.
#27 Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)
Stanford aims to make the dining experience as educational, sustainable, and communal as possible. The college hires students to act as dining ambassadors, which means they work with the community both on campus and in surrounding areas to promote wellness, sustainability, and healthy eating. Students and community members get exposure to organic gardens and an educational farm, and the farm stand on campus sells seasonal produce. But that’s not all that’s incredible at Stanford. Menu items include cabbage and jicama salad with bacon-cilantro dressing and rotisserie chicken with mango mole sauce. The food at all dining hall kitchens is prepared fresh and in small batches, and last year they implemented a program that reduced the amount of animal protein served by 20 percent. For the past three years they’ve also partnered with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to launch the Teaching Kitchen @ Stanford (which offers multiple cooking classes every month), and have co-founded, with the Culinary Institute of America, the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC), which aims to move students toward healthier, sustainable, plant-focused diets. It was also named 2015’s most vegan-friendly campus by PETA.
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#26 Pitzer College (Claremont, Calif.)
One of Food Management Magazine’s top 10 “Power Players” for 2017, Pitzer College utilizes reusable to-go containers to reduce waste, purchases from local vendors, and develops menus to focus on seasonal items that can be purchased locally — clearly, the dining service is dedicated to environmental stewardship. The college also participates in Low-Carbon Diet Day and the Eat Local Challenge to educate students on everything having to do with sustainability. Students are happy to eat here with menu options like heirloom tomato salad, chicken Marsala, barbecue baby back ribs, and grilled polenta in a white bean and tomato ragù.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in exciting theme nights, like Mediterranean Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wonderful Wednesdays, Surf & Turf Thursday, Thai Friday, Snackaway Saturday, and Super Sunday. Those looking to get off campus can use their dining plans at any of the Claremont Colleges or use Flex dollars at various locations around the school. The menu varies daily, and chefs are encouraged to experiment and showcase the cuisines they grew up enjoying.
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#25 St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minn.)
Just because St. Olaf is a small liberal arts college doesn’t mean they cut corners in the food department. Just this past summer, the college completely renovated its kitchens. With menu options like sage-crusted turkey with rustic raisin stuffing; beef- and rice-stuffed peppers (click here for a recipe); and chicken Florentine with penne pasta, artichokes, spinach, cremini mushrooms, tomatoes, and feta cheese, we’d say that the school goes above and beyond what’s expected of a college dining experience. The college purchases 23.5 percent of their food from farm-to-fork vendors, and all seafood purchased falls under the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guidelines. At least twice a month, the dining services throw a food-focused event like themed meals and the Eat Local Challenge. Even outsiders can dine at St. Olaf, so maybe we’ll see you there!
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#24 Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
Even though all of Boston is just a T ride away, there’s no need to go off campus for amazing food at Harvard. The dining events on campus include Top Chef Harvard, Brain Breaks during finals, and monthly barbecues, so you’ll never be bored or hungry. And if you’re interested in studying food as part of your academic career, then you can take Harvard’s courses in food writing and food history, or just read the Food Literacy Project Newsletter, which highlights food events both on and off campus, cooking classes, and local food job listings. And even though Harvard caters to approximately 21,000 students, the 13 dining halls and 14 retail locations do a pretty good job meeting individual needs. They switched to a gluten-free roux in soups, boast a kosher kitchen, and offer plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. On the sustainability front, all of Harvard’s dining halls are either two- or three-star Green Restaurant Certified and donate leftover food to Food for Free. Still, the school knows that constructive criticism is the key to really pleasing their students, which is why you can always take any questions, concerns, or complaints directly to the dining staff.
#23 University of Rochester (Rochester, N.Y.)
The University of Rochester’s dining program makes efforts to be as sustainable, delicious, and fun as possible. They’ve also recently renovated their Douglass Dining Center, which now has more of a focus on specialty diets and being allergy-friendly as well. Team Green is the team of student interns employed by the dining services whose sole purpose is to promote sustainability while dining — and on top of that, more than 62 percent of all the ingredients served on campus are grown, raised, or wholly manufactured within New York state. The school has also been named among the most vegan-friendly universities by PETA2 for three years running. Campus events include Meatless Mondays, D’Lions Dinner, the Chef Challenge, and the ever-popular Local Foods Week. But if you ever go to the University of Rochester, you have to get a Garbage Plate. It may sound odd, but we assure you that is delicious. You get two sides — choose from macaroni salad, baked beans, home fries, or French fries — and then choose either two burgers or two hot dogs (or other protein options). Now imagine all of that piled together with meaty hot sauce, onions, and mustard, and you have a Garbage Plate. Students go crazy for it. A new burrito bowl station in their retail food court is also a huge hit.
#22 Yale University (New Haven, Conn.)
Yale is already recognized as one of the best colleges academically, but their dining services belong at the Ivy League level as well. You’ll find roasted pork chops, beer-battered fish and chips, and vegan ravioli on the menu — and if you’re not feeling those options, than you can attend one of the countless events on campus. Yale’s dining services throw everything from themed meals to a Welcome Back Dinner to the Uncommon Produce Market. And if you’re interested in learning more about mixology, etiquette, and wine pairings, then check out the school’s dining series, “Reality Bites.” Students always have access to the most up-to-date information about what’s going on with dining services through the mobile app, website, and the D.I.S.H, a dining newsletter. But don’t think that the dining services are just having fun, as they are seriously committed to sustainability as well. Their Sustainable Food Project, which was created by Alice Waters and her daughter, Fanny (a Yale alumna), manages two on-campus farms, and students can take part in initiatives such as Local 2 Yale and Erase the Waste. It’s no wonder so many people want to go to Yale.
#21 University of South Carolina (Columbia, S.C.)
Nine executive chefs are at the helm of the University of South Carolina’s dining program, which is made up of three “all-you-care-to-eat” dining halls and 27 on-campus retail locations. A late night eatery called the Community Table offers students a later option, and the Top of Carolina, which is home to the school’s Friday Southern cookout, Sunday brunch, and Sustainable Sunset Dinners, offers stunning views and also happens to be the only revolving restaurant in South Carolina. Every Friday, students can indulge in Southern Food Fridays, where they’ll find dishes including fried chicken, barbecue, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, and collard greens; traditional South Carolina fare like Lowcountry boils, pimento cheese, and shrimp and grits with andouille are always available. The same amount of care that goes into serving insanely delicious food also goes into sustainability and health initiatives. Waste-reduction efforts include recycling programs and reusable containers, and no equipment is left on when it’s not in use. They’ve set a goal of purchasing 20 percent of all food from local producers by 2020, and every Tuesday, a farmers market is held in the heart of campus. Additionally, the “Global Chef Program” brings a new international chef to the Global Café for a semester-long residency, and all over campus certain foods are marked as “mindful” when they contain acceptable amounts of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, and fiber. For students with food sensitivities, the Honeycomb Café offers “simple serving” meals that account for 90 percent of common allergies.
Facebook/UCSD Housing and Dining
#20 University of California, San Diego (San Diego, Calif.)
The area surrounding UCSD is rich with killer restaurants and bars, but you definitely don’t need to venture off campus to get some delicious meals. The chefs at UCSD are professionally trained by award-winning culinary schools, and the dining services have won a slew of awards for food quality and taste. Embracing the Mexican heritage of the area, UCSD has an on-campus food truck called Torero Tu Go, which serves savory dishes like chicken skewers and skirt steak tacos. And if that wasn’t enough, dining services throws all kinds of events for students, including themed food fairs (like the Black History Luncheon, Dia de los Muertos, Mardi Gras, and May the Fourth Be With You) and the annual Chocolate Festival, complete with chocolate fountains and delicious dippers.
But don’t worry, UCSD hasn’t forgotten about sustainability. The school’s Eco Tours for students and members of the community highlight the LEED-rated buildings on campus, solar water heating, hydration stations, and water-efficient landscaping, among other things, and are meant to educate students about the importance of living sustainably. A new dining facility called Ocean View Terrace opened a couple years ago, boasting three new 24/7 restaurants: gourmet pizza, a kosher and halal option, and a bakery.
#19 Emory University (Atlanta, Ga.)
The extensive list of events held at Emory — including Melon Mania, the Heirloom Tomato Festival, and a Mardi Gras celebration — had us at hello, but there’s so much more going on. The kitchen serves truly impressive dishes, like a grilled vegetable and balsamic panini, but it seems that the well-stocked salad bar is the healthy student favorite, which cannot be said for most colleges. Although Emory is dedicated to promoting health with their Healthy Eating Partners Program, they also realize that every once in a while, simple comfort foods are all that diners need. That’s why students have access to national chains like Chick-fil-A and Starbucks right on campus. The student-run advisory committee runs the show at the dining halls, going through complaints and making sure that everything is suited to the students’ needs.
#18 Brown University (Providence, R.I.)
Brown doesn’t take sustainability lightly. The dining service partners with local farms to ensure that students get the freshest and most environmentally sound ingredients possible. The college also uses reusable to-go containers and encourages students to compost their waste. During the fall, there’s a weekly farmers market where students can go to find fresh produce. There are 11 eateries on campus, and menu items include anything from vegan paella to cheese tortellini to Italian meatballs. Just last spring, returning students were surprised with a renovated Sharpe Refectory, which was given interior renovations that increased efficiency and improved the aesthetic of the dining hall.
Brown also makes sure that each and every student gets exactly what he or she wants, as vegan and vegetarian options are offered at every location on campus. All meals are produced from scratch by their 30-person culinary team, all beef is from Niman Ranch and prepped at their in-house butcher shop, all breads and pastries are produced at an on-campus bakeshop, and a farmers market is held weekly during the growing season. Thirty-five percent of Brown’s food is sourced locally, including 97 percent of their seafood, and all coffee served is fair trade.
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#17 University of Connecticut (Storrs, Conn.)
2017 has been a great year for UConn, and its recent renovation of the Putnam Dining facility won it the Bronze in the National Association of College & University Foodservice (NACUFS) 2017 Best Dining Unit Renovation. It also got the Gold in NACUFS’s 2017 Best Local Foods Contest for the Bibimbap Steak & Egg Burrito, now sold at the Food for Though food truck on campus. UConn participates in numerous sustainability initiatives such as U-Recycle, Slow Food at UConn, and the Earth Day Spring Fling, and they compost in all eight of the dining units. Dining Services also runs a Farm Fresh Market where most of the food is sourced locally from the two student-run gardens, and the UConn Dairy Bar makes its own ice cream using milk from UConn cows. UConn is also now an official Certified Bee Campus and is a member of Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, a group of leading scholars, business leaders in the foodservice industry, and executive chefs who are working to push Americans toward healthier and more sustainable diets. Additionally, UConn Dining Services is the largest purchaser of Connecticut-grown foods in the whole state. And even though UConn is a big school, they don’t shirk their responsibility to provide an incredible dining experience to their students. Huge themed feasts include the Scooby Doo Halloween dinner, a New England clambake, weekly chef events, and an annual pop-up dinner. The dining services’ YouTube channel also offers cooking demos for students interested in learning more about food and how to prepare it on their own.
Photo by Alix K. via Yelp
#16 University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, Calif.)
UCLA takes the health of its students very seriously. The Student Nutrition Awareness Campaign (SNAC) and the Here’s to Health initiative both provide students with information about healthy living and eating. And if students still have questions, they can speak with the registered dietitian on campus, who is always happy to tend to any concerns. UCLA is also committed to sustainability and previously received an award from PETA for being the most vegan-friendly campus. Mouthwatering offerings on campus include seafood pizza, chicken and dumplings, and chicken chile verde, and an in-house bakery provides almost all breads and baked goods. Their boutique restaurant, Rendezvous, is a Certified Green Restaurant, and they are members of the Healthy Campus Initiative, Menus of Change, and the Global Food Initiative. And if you’re going to stroll off campus for a meal, then wander into Westwood Village to Fat Sal’s Deli, known for its monstrous and creative offerings; Diddy Riese, which serves customizable ice cream sandwiches; or Stan’s Donuts, one of the best doughnut shops in America.
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#15 University of Georgia (Athens, Ga.)
The food services at the University of Georgia have teamed up with Georgia Grown, a local-minded brand that focuses on providing the freshest and most sustainable options available. On top of that, 100 percent of the food waste that comes from the dining halls is broken down and sent to a bioconversion center. We’d say that all that is impressive enough, but the University of Georgia doesn’t stop there. Themed events on campus include holiday-centered fun like Valentine’s Cupcake Decorating and larger events meant to educate students on different cuisines. And if you’re feeling hunger pangs late at night, Snelling Dining Commons is open 24 hours — a visit here is a popular tradition known as “Late-Night Snelling” or “Snellebrating.”
And improvements are definitely coming to the University of Georgia campus. The new Bolton Dining Commons has interactive cooking platforms and options like breakfast all day, regional and international cuisine, and hand-spun milkshakes.
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#14 James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.)
James Madison University definitely knows the importance of fun, which is why they throw events like Madipalooza, an outdoor spring festival; farm-to-fork dinners; and annual farmer’s markets, held four times throughout the fall. And even though the food in the dining halls is delicious, students also have access to multiple national chains like Quiznos, Starbucks, and Red Mango right on campus.
As far as sustainability goes, JMU is making huge strides toward becoming as environmentally sound as possible, with more than 2,500 tons composted since 2010. JMU is aware of the importance of connecting to the local community, which is why the dining services partnered with Food Donation Connection’s Harvest Program to donate more than 12,000 pounds of food to those in need. And if those numbers weren’t enough to dazzle you, just know that approximately 20 percent of all dining services’ purchases are local.
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#13 Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tenn.)
Vanderbilt gives its students an opportunity to experience and take part in the Taste of Nashville, during which they can eat at participating restaurants for a meal swipe. But students don’t even need to go off campus for a meal with menu options like chile-rubbed tilapia with asparagus, grilled mustard chicken with polenta, red lentils with kale and miso, braised short ribs with collard greens and candied sweet potatoes, chicken-fried steak with white gravy and green peas, and roasted salmon with sweet chipotle glaze. And luckily, Vanderbilt knows that college students are under a lot of stress and almost always ravenous, which is why four of the dining locations on campus are open 24 hours a day, including the central dining hall. And if that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, the school has a Dining Advisory Committee, which is a group of students, university staff, and dining staff dedicated to addressing every aspect of the dining program in order to improve sustainability efforts.
#12 Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.)
The dining services at Cornell University have increased the amount of locally and regionally grown and produced ingredients to comprise 22 percent of all food purchased, and the dining halls have implemented tray-less dining to prevent further waste. No matter what your dietary preference, you can find it at Cornell, which has options for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, halal, and Seventh Day Adventist diners. They’ve also turned Risley Dining Room into their gluten-free, peanut-free, and tree-nut-free dining hall and are focusing on a Clean Ingredients mission this year. All that is pretty impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the events that are held throughout the year, such as Nutritionland, Peanut Butter Month, A Night at Hogwarts, Baseball Night, and Chinese New Year, to name just a few. On top of that, their chefs regularly medal at the National Association of College and University Food Services’ annual chef competition.
Probably one of the coolest things on campus is the Cornell Dairy Bar, which serves milk, yogurt, pudding, and cheese all made from Cornell’s own dairy-processing plant. But on the healthier side, the university’s “plant-powered dinners” initiative has been part of an effort to educate students on healthier ways to eat. To make sure that students are satisfied and all their needs are met, they’ve also added a new online ordering tool so that students can get quick customer service and order food and pay for it online so they don’t have to wait in line.
#11 University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, Massachusetts)
Students at UMass Amherst now have a great new app that makes it easy for them to look up daily menus at campus dining locations, as well as hours, offers, and even traffic reports so that they don’t get stuck on their way to eat! Those with allergies or other dietary preferences can even plan their menus ahead of time. Events throughout the year include Local Chicken Dinner Day, Flavours of Canada, Pistachio Day, and Spring Dinner, and menu options range from Irish coffee bread pudding with Kahlúa sauce to chicken breast schnitzel with chipotle salsa. UMass Amherst also upholds high standards in nutrition and environmentalism with the UMass Permaculture initiative, which uses five on-campus gardens to educate students on sustainability and health. Purchasing at least 20 percent of their food locally and fair-traded, UMass-Amherst also participates in a composting program and supports a student-run farmers market on campus. There’s also always somewhere to eat, with one dining hall open as late as 4 a.m., and Baby Berk, the on-campus burger and taco truck, open until midnight.
#10 Wellesley College (Wellesley Mass.)
When it comes to waste reduction, Wellesley is truly dedicated. They uphold a promise that for every pound of waste that students save, the college will purchase that same amount of dry goods to go to a local charity, Community Servings. If you have dietary restrictions, this is also the college to attend. An impressive vegan and vegetarian program also exists on campus, and there’s even an entire dining hall for Kosher-compliant vegetarians. There’s also a nut-free dining hall, and the campus bakery makes sure to stay nut-free as well. Each dining hall also has a cooler for students with gluten allergies, and there’s even a station called Clarity that has foods free of gluten as well as eight major allergens. Students with gluten allergies can also cook in yet another room just for them, complete with a stocked fridge. All foods have signs that indicate their ingredients and any allergens, and the Wellesley dining website even gives students the ability to filter their menu by allergens and preferences.
#9 Boston University (Boston, Mass.)
One of the coolest things about Boston University is the fact that they have an on-campus bar/restaurant for all their 21-plus students known as the BU Pub — and, of course, it’s a student favorite. But delicious food is still available to all the younger students with menu options like barbecue chicken and caramelized onion pizza, stuffed shells, Rhode Island-style clam fritters, and polenta with broccoli rabe.
You can find all that delicious food and more at BU’s main dining facility, which features two massive levels and has the capacity to hold 900 people. Special events include Oktoberfest and Lobster Night, and you can learn about any upcoming happenings through the dining services’ hilarious YouTube channel. BU also tries to take as much care of the planet as it does its students through initiatives like tray-less dining, following Seafood Watch guidelines, and composting.
#8 Occidental College (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The dining services at Occidental work with a student-led cooking and gardening course to educate students on good composting practices as well as proper food handling, and it’s really paid off. The college now offers humane grilled chicken breasts and organic bread, as well as organic and local sandwiches, fruit, and stew. Some of the events on campus include Food Justice Month, Public Health Week, and Earth Week, and on top of that, there are a huge array of themed meals that work in tandem with student-run organizations and clubs. Since spring of this year, Occidental has brought different food trucks to campus every Thursday as a lunch option. Let’s not forget about the Chef’s Showcase, where on-campus chefs prepare their personal favorites, or Oxy Iron Chef, an in-house student culinary face-off. Clearly Occidental’s mission is to focus on community building and community learning, which we think is a noble goal. Meals have included balsamic-glazed chicken, butternut squash risotto, and braised beef ribs, and if you’re not satisfied with that, you can custom order exactly what it is you want and get it. Everything in the Occidental dining locations is made entirely from scratch in small batches.
#7 New York University (New York, N.Y.)
NYU had the third-highest Yelp rating of the whole bunch of colleges we looked at, and the college definitely takes advantage of its location in the food haven that is Manhattan. With Campus Cash, students can purchase food from more than 20 locations including 5 Napkin Burger and Whole Foods, as well as on-campus vendors like Starbucks and Argo Tea. But the fun doesn’t stop there, as student-wide events include a weekly brunch at the Palladium Dining Hall complete with fresh omelettes, muffins, and fruits, and the spring Strawberry Fest, which features New York’s longest strawberry shortcake. Recently, NYU opened a community garden where students can learn to grow, tend, and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables — and on top of that, NYU is one of the first schools to create a master’s degree program exclusively for the study of food. If you ever have any questions about anything going on at NYU’s dining services, you can always check out The Scoop, the dining services newsletter with all the up-to-date information on menus and events, plus fun facts.
#6 Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.)
Johns Hopkins’ dining services continues to shine by converting Nolan’s on 33rd to an all-you-care-to-eat buffet for a greater value. Made-to-order stations are now available where students can customize their orders and get a text when the food is ready. Students can also choose from local vegan options, a create-your-own-pizza station, and a new late-night option at the LaB. Johns Hopkins also boasts a hotel-quality brunch, food and wine pairings for students of legal drinking age, themed monotony-breakers each month, and cooking classes in on-campus residences that focus on healthy eating. There are also monthly faculty and staff dinners with students to promote community-building, as well as weekly chef demonstrations, tastings, and samplings in retail locations. Options served at the dining hall include manicotti puttanesca, house-smoked beef brisket sandwiches, rotisserie entrées and sides, and carved-to-order roasted meat sandwiches, so you will always be eating well at Johns Hopkins. Everything in the dining halls is made in small batches and from scratch, which not only gives students the freshest options available, but also reduces waste. Sustainability is very important on campus, which is why the dining services use compostable paper products and to-go packaging, and they compost all their food wastes and organic materials. JHU also only purchases cage-free eggs, hormone-free milk, and locally grown produce whenever possible. And if you are a student on campus craving a late-night bite, stores on campus are open as late as 2 a.m.
Photo by Alicia A. via Yelp
#5 Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)
Tour of Pork, Noodlepalooza, Global Chef, Windy City Chefs, Battle of the Chefs, Street Week, and the WildCat Beach Club are just a few of the truly mind-blowing events that Northwestern University’s dining services host. The college is dedicated to showing its students a deliciously fun time, while still dedicating themselves to the important issues of sustainability and nutrition. All six dining halls are completely tray-free, which encourages students to only take what they need each meal, and have a rotating five-week menu cycle. The school’s purchases of local produce has reached approximately 20 percent and continues to rise, and the on-campus dietitian oversees all the menus to ensure healthfulness and holds quarterly “Meet the Dietitian” events to answer questions about healthy eating. Menu options include Buffalo chicken nuggets, spinach lasagna with marinara sauce, Tuscan kale salad, and curried rice with lentils, but the off-campus options are just as impressive as the on-campus ones. Lou Malnati’s, known for serving the quintessential Chicago deep-dish pizza, is right near the school. If you want to hang around campus, you could always head to Fran’s Late Night, a hotspot for studying and after-hours dining. Northwestern has also introduced Greens ‘N Things for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Flexitarians as a healthier, plant-based option. Even more excitingly, it is the current test kitchen for celebrity chef Jimmy Banos!
#4 Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine)
Dining services at Bowdoin are dedicated to the idea that the food on campus should provide more than just a quick meal to satiate the hungry, but rather an overall experience. Bowdoin purchases ingredients locally as often as possible, the on-campus meat shop uses locally raised beef for all of the ground beef used on campus, seafood is from certified local fishmongers, their organic garden doubled in size over the summer, and the bakeshop roasts its own pumpkins grown right in the campus garden for pumpkin pies. The dining service at Bowdoin celebrates the rich cultural diversity of their students through food, serving individual regional and international menu items alongside images and information that enhance the student experience as well as educate them. They have also made all their meat halal, which serves the needs of their Muslim student population, and added a second dietitian on staff. They’ve also recently completely upgraded kitchen equipment to be more energy- and resource-efficient, and food waste is composted and/or turned into pig feed. Bowdoin always encourages students to live a healthy, fulfilled life, which is why the most popular recipes are featured on the dining services website for students to try at home; the dining program even has its own mobile app. Brunswick’s vibrant Maine Street, which boasts a wide variety of restaurants, food trucks, and a popular gelato shop, leads right to the college’s front door.
#3 Liberty University (Lynchburg, Va.)
Liberty University is a newcomer to our list, and it’s shot right to the top. Liberty starts off right with its food by purchasing locally grown produce, particularly from the Liberty University Campus Farm, sourcing humanely raised animals and using cage-free eggs. Dining hall meals are well-balanced, and students are even encouraged to use MyFitnessPal to track their nutritional and caloric intake. This is easily done, as every food item has its nutritional value posted. Liberty is also dedicated to helping the planet and has a partnership with Eco-Products, their distributor for flatware, cups, and plates, which is eco-friendly, BPA-free, biodegradable, and made from 100 percent renewable energy sources. The university is also dedicated to food waste education, with tabling sessions every Earth Day. In order to decrease their carbon footprint, the dining program purchases much of its produce locally and even has a Meatless Monday program. Students can dine with their meal plan in either the resident dining room or any of the 23 retail locations on campus, and off-campus food purchases are possible too. The dining program is also social media-savvy, sharing updates on health and wellness on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram along with offers and events, which include themed nights that showcase holidays or cities. There’s even a Liberty Dietitian Blog and informational tables and stands around campus. Students also get to judge the Manager Cook Off, where management teams are given a theme and a budget for decorations. The Food Court at Reber-Thomas was renovated in 2014 for $5 million to solve the problem of long lines and small serving stations, adding 13 dining platforms for a total of 14 which serve 10,000 diners every day. Liberty’s hometown of Lynchburg is also known for the Cheesy Western, so if you want to eat off campus, go for this burger stacked with cheese and topped with an egg sunny side up.
Facebook/Columbia University Dining
#2 Columbia University (New York, N.Y.)
New York is the city of dreams, and Columbia is making dreams come true by consistently proving to their students that the 600 menu items served on campus daily are just as good as, if not better than, anything New York City has to offer. But if you really must eat somewhere else, Columbia’s dining plans let you use Flex Dollars at a slew of local restaurants and grocery stores, including Chipotle, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Five Guys Burgers, and Whole Foods. If that isn’t enough to impress, both the dining hall and JJ’s Place also now offer you a bite to eat any time you want, staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week! They are also now open during breaks, giving students 17 more days of dining at no extra cost. Columbia also consistently donates both food and money to City Harvest, and around 52 percent of all of the food purchased comes from vendors within 250 miles of campus. It has also addressed food insecurity among students, offering free meals to students in need, no questions asked. The registered dietitian on campus is available both online and in person for one-on-one consultations with students. Notable events include Ice Cream and Sundaes, Sabor Latino Food Day, National Nutrition Month, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar, and the Food Expo. The university is always adding more events, and last year added “May the 4th Be With You,” a Star Wars-themed event complete with repeated screenings of The Force Awakens all day in the John Jay Dining Hall. Columbia’s halal and kosher dining options are also notable, with an all-kosher dining location offering traditional kosher deli items and a halal dining plan at no extra cost with delicious meals, such as Mediterranean fish, roasted lemon chicken, and curried beef.
#1 Duke University (Durham, N.C.)
Just as it did for the past two years, Duke reigns over our list, and it’s got the awards to legitimize its lofty station. Over the past year, Duke has won multiple awards for its dining program, including the “College Innovator of the Year” 2017 by Food Management Magazine and “Facility Design Project of the Month” in February 2017 by Food Service Director Magazine for the renovation of West Union, which has added 12 more dining spots. LenEDU ranked Duke No. 1 in its Top 30 College Dining Halls and it also made the top 10 of Southern Living magazine’s 2017 list of “The South’s Most Stunning College Dining Halls.” Campus dining locations also serve 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 all day? That’s not a problem, because there are eateries on Duke’s campus that will deliver meals right to your dorm. At Duke, there are a total of 59 dining options for students on the meal plan, including 35 on-campus locations ranging from coffee shops to outposts of local favorites, 17 local restaurants that deliver to anywhere on campus, and seven food trucks. Whatever you want, wherever you want it, you can get it at Duke. But even with all these delicious options available, you’re still going to be eating healthily. Duke Dining partnered with the 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. Duke Dining also holds more than 60 events every year, with each month featuring a large-scale event like the ever-popular Cruise-Themed Dinner.
If the college you're looking to attend isn't on this list, that's alright. Just make sure it's not on our list of colleges with the worst food either!