80 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2016 (Slideshow)
#80 Ohio University, Athens
Ohio University is a newcomer to this list that is finally getting recognition for some strides made in dining in the past few years. They raised their local produce purchases from 5 percent to 18 percent since 2013, they hired a nutritionist in 2014, and they now compost 100 percent of all food waste. One recent renovation to Nelson Commons nabbed them an LEED Silver Certification and the school hopes more are on the way. And why not, since Ohio University is constantly updating facilities, having renovated every single one of their venues in the last 10 years.
#79 Franklin and Marshall 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 dietician. The meal plans are plenty flexible and allow students their fill of diverse and healthy choices.
#78 California Baptist University, Riverside, Calif.
On top of that, they have events like Dr. Seuss Night, S’mores Night, and Grill Wars. But CBU isn’t satisfied with staying the same, and the dining services are always growing and improving. In the fall of 2014, the college opened two new dining venues to provide greater options and easier accessibility.
#77 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.
And if you ever have any questions about food and health, you can dine with the dietician. 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.
#76 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 comprised of 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, “Dining Sustainability” fellowships, the use of Greenies (eco-friendly and reusable to-go containers), offering local sodas (and the ability for students to make their own), and even the use of fair trade and organic employee uniforms. In other changes, Huffman Hall was completely remodeled three years ago and Curtis Hall will be next in 2017.
#75 University of Southern California, Los Angeles
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 dietician 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.
#74 University of California, Irvine
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 include food from more than 130 vendors within 250 miles of campus.
#73 California State University, Chico
Cal State, Chico is always looking to engage their students in the culinary experience. A recipe contest gives students a chance to see their food featured in dining halls, while events like National Eggs Benedict Day and Black History Month Soul Food Night are quite popular.
Cal State, Chico offers several student intern positions for sustainability initiatives, conducts compost workshops, and educates their students on the importance of environmental consciousness. Sutter Hall, the main dining venue on campus, has received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
#72 Colorado State University, Fort Collins
Colorado State University 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 like 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 dietician emphasize the important 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 RamSkellar 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.
#71 Duquesne University, Pittsburgh
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 doubled in the past four years. Each of Duquesne’s 11 dining locations highlights seasonal offerings and has 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 four 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. 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.
#70 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. 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.
#69 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 Peasants 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 eggrolls, 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.
#68 Southern Methodist University, Dallas
Being in Dallas definitely doesn’t hurt SMU’s greatness when it comes to food. Students can get delicious food all around campus anytime they want, and they have access to various local farmers markets and a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for all their grocery needs. On campus, SMU’s dining program invented the student favorite “Mustang Bread,” a beer bread made fresh daily. Dining services bases menus on the seasonality and sustainability of the ingredients, and every Earth Day, SMU hosts a Weigh the Waste event that teaches students the impact of food waste. Other fun events include State Fair Night, Fry the Frogs (a sports rivalry-fueled event), and Taste of the Mediterranean.
#67 Temple University, Philadelphia
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” than 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 both all-you-care-to-eat spots that are 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 on 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.
#66 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.
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 sources 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.
#65 Saint Anselm College, Manchester, N.H.
Saint Anselm is another small college striving for greatness in its dining program. There are three dining halls on campus, as well as a coffee shop, a café, and a pub. Notable menu items include broiled swordfish steak, gnocchi with summer vegetables, and risotto cakes with roasted tomatoes and arugula. Davison Hall, the main dining facility on campus, has 11 different stations to accommodate pretty much any dietary preference you can think of. On top of all that, the dining halls are beautiful and spacious, so eating at Saint Anselm is an enjoyable experience all around.
#64 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 kabobs. 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.
#63 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 their 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.
#62 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, and it’s being 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.
#61 University of Washington, Seattle
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.
#60 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. Everything from salad dressings to house-smoked ribs are prepared in house, and everything from sandwiches and salads to wraps, pizzas, pastas, stir-fries, and nachos are entirely customizable. An online menu and nutrition information system also allows students to see what’s being served at every meal, and a registered dietician 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, there’s an on-campus greenhouse for herbs, seafood is sustainable and traceable, and disposables are recyclable, compostable, and unbleached. 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.
#59 University of Delaware, Newark
The University of Delaware is completely committed to the idea that healthy food can also be delicious food, and they prove it. Through Healthy for Life, students learn how to maintain a healthy diet and create well-balanced plates for every day. UDel’s dining services serve delicious and healthful options like homemade butternut squash and apple soup, black and white sesame chicken, and herb-crusted flounder. All the nutritional information is also available online, and with 15 eateries on campus, you know you’ll never go hungry.
#58 Tulane University, New Orleans
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.
#57 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, omelets, salads, pho, 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. Have an allergy? BC Dining offers a “Plain and Simple” dinner station completely free of the top eight food allergens. Recent developments include the completed renovations to four dining facilities (Stuart Dining Hall, Addie’s Loft, Eagle’s Nest, and Bean Counter) and the addition of two pop-up events last year. The locations of these special meals were kept secret until the day of, and participating students were treated to a gourmet five-course experience at the first event and a Sunday Jazz Brunch for the second. 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.
#56 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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 dietician. 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.
#55 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. Tufts really accommodates its students’ needs while still keeping the needs of the planet in mind, too.
#54 University of California, Santa Barbara
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, and 25 percent of that is organically grown.
#53 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.
#52 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 their students on sustainable efforts that they can make when it comes to food.
#51 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.
#50 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. 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. With options like those, you’ll be excited to eat on campus every day.
#49 University of Houston
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 participates 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.
#48 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. They are always trying to improve on sustainability by increasing the seasonality of the menus and including healthier vending options. Dickinson keeps their 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.
#47 Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
Everyone knows that Princeton is one of the best colleges in the country academically, but the dining services there are incredibly impressive as well. 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.
#46 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, where students from the different residence halls form teams and compete Iron Chef-style.
Some Crust Bakery, which has been open since 1916, is 100-percent 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 their produce is sourced from within 150 miles. In the last year, Harvey Mudd added “Simple Servings,” a resident dining option that provides safe and appetizing food options for students with food allergies or other dietary restrictions.
#45 University of California, Davis
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.
#44 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 100-percent 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 up the Cro Bar.
#43 Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
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 Georgia Tech, however; they were re-imagined from the top down in the spring of 2015 and are now called community restaurants. 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, and independent on-campus restaurants include Lucky Buddha, two pizzerias, and an outpost of the Atlanta landmark The Varsity.
#42 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.
#41 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. The Farm-to-Fork program is one of the reasons the food is so fresh and delicious, and dining services has dedicated itself to offering whole-grain options, encouraging protein consumption, and reducing sodium.
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.
#40 Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.
At Muhlenberg College, it’s hard to find items that aren’t fresh. The soups, pizza dough, pancakes, and pasta 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.
#39 Wesleyan University, 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.
#38 Carroll University, Waukesha, Wis.
All the meals at Carroll University are made in house, from scratch, and are never ever 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.
#37 University of Chicago
The University of Chicago isn’t content to let their dining program stay the same, so they have 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 they seek to constantly improve themselves, 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.
#36 Northeastern University, Boston
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 their 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 their Fall Food Fest, a Mardi Gras celebration, Lobstah Night, and an “Educate Your Palate” Global Gala. As if that isn’t enticing enough already, Café Crossing opened since the release of our list last year, and this summer saw updates to the kitchen serving both Levine and Stetson West.
#35 Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.
Sustainability at Virginia Tech is no joke. 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. VT is also just as concerned about their students’ health as they are about the health of the planet.
The Y.E.S. Program — You’re Eating (and Living) Smarter — guarantees that students know everything there is to know 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.
#34 High Point University, High Point, N.C.
Several times a year, the dining services at High Point features 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. Nutrition information is 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. There almost a dozen food-focused events held every month, which means a lot of opportunities for students to interact with each other, eat amazing food, and learn about healthy eating, sustainability, and different cultures. Their 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.
#33 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 they also realize that fun is an important part of any dining experience, which is why they hold 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.
#32 Washington University in St. Louis
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 they’re dedicated to giving their students the absolute best when it comes to food service, but they also take sustainability seriously, which is why they 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.
#31 University of San Diego
If you’re going to the University of San Diego, plan on attending some truly amazing food events throughout the year like the Applefest in the fall and the Strawberry Fest in the spring. Or you could 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. In fact, the University of San Diego was the first college campus in the country to install a bio-digester, and we think that’s a pretty impressive achievement. 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. If that’s not enough to convince you of the dining program’s greatness, then maybe the fact that there is a grocery store and deli on campus for students will.
#30 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
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.
And 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.
#29 University of California, Berkeley
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 better than 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.
#28 Pitzer College, Claremont, Calif.
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.
When they aren’t eating delicious everyday food, they are participating in exciting theme nights, like Mongolian Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wild Card Wednesdays, Steak Night Thursdays, and Farm-to-Fork Fridays. When you’re looking to get off campus, you can use your dining plan at any of the Claremont Colleges or use your 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.
#27 University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.
One of the University of Connecticut’s goals is to have all of their dining facilities green-certified (one, McMahon, is already LEED Gold Certified), and they are well on their way to achieving that goal. 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. 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 on 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. Having recently opened the first gluten-free bakery on a college campus, UConn has now set its sights on constructing a living grow wall for herbs and is renovating the Putnam dining facility and adding a juice/smoothie bar.
#26 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 and surrounding the campus 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 two 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.
#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. In fact, 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, crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, and feta cheese, we’d say that the school goes above and beyond what’s expected of a college dining experience. And the food isn’t the only thing that impresses us about St. Olaf, as their commitment to sustainability is obvious. 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!
#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, amassing 50,000 pounds last year alone. 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. 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 48 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 PETA 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 opened last fall, 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 low country 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.
#20 University of California, San Diego
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. For instance, just last year the school composted more than 200 tons of pre-consumer food scrap, and they expect to top that number in coming academic year. A new dining facility called 64 Degrees opened just last year (and is now the biggest spot on campus) and a new location, called Ocean View Terrace, will open later this year, boasting three new 24/7 restaurants: gourmet pizza, a kosher and halal option, and a bakery.
#19 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.
Brown also makes sure that each and every student gets exactly what he or she wants, as vegan and vegetarian options 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.
#18 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 MiamiU 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.
#17 Mills College, Oakland, Calif.
Mills is completely dedicated to sustainability. The dining services use local ingredients as much as possible and cook in small batches to reduce waste and maintain freshness. On top of that, vegetarian and vegan options are served at every meal and no nuts are used in any of the food in order to ensure that those with allergies can eat safely. And Mills certainly knows how to throw a party, with themed events like the Latina Heritage Dinner, several all-campus picnics each year, "chef wars," and a meal centered around the produce harvested from the campus farm. Students can also relax and enjoy food from the Tea Shop, a campus hot spot, or venture off campus into the surrounding Bay Area (students are given transit passes), which is renowned for its food.
#16 University of California, Los Angeles
Photo by Alix K. via Yelp
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 dietician 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.
#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 University of Georgia. The new Bolton Dining Commons has interactive cooking platforms and options like breakfast all day, regional and international cuisine, and hand-spun milkshakes.
#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. More than 370 tons of waste were recycled and composted last school year alone, with more than 2,000 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.
#13 Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
Vanderbilt gives their 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 University of Massachusetts, Amherst
You will never be bored eating at UMass Amherst. 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. Think you’ve seen it all when it comes to nutrition and environmental consciousness? Think again, because UMass Amherst stands far above the pack with the UMass Permaculture initiative, which uses five on-campus gardens to educate students on sustainability and health. And those aren’t the only steps taken towards sustainability. UMass Amherst purchases at least 20 percent of their food locally and fair-traded, participates in a composting program, and supports a student-run farmers market on campus. And there will always be 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. More than 60 special themed dinners are held every year, a chef in residence program is being implemented, they’re transitioning to 100-percent grass-fed beef, and last summer the menu was completely overhauled in response to student feedback.
#11 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. 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, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman stopped by campus to talk about his book last year and 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. Perhaps the fact that Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration is rated the No. 1 hospitality school in the nation is the reason the food program is so good. They clearly know a thing or two about treating people well.
#10 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.
#9 Boston University
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 their main dining facility, which features two massive levels and has the capacity to hold 900 people. And don’t ever think that dining at BU is boring, because it is anything but. 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, Seafood Watch guidelines, and composting.
#8 Occidental College, Los Angeles
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. 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. Let’s not forget about the Chef’s Showcase either, 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. But it’s not just the events that impress us. 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 City
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 Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
Photo by Alicia A. via Yelp
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 throw. The college is dedicated to showing their 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. 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. But if you want to hang around campus, you could always head to Fran’s Late Night, a hotspot for studying and after-hours dining.
#5 Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.
Kennesaw’s dining services are perpetually evolving, and they make sure that options served are always fresh and never boring. In fact, the menu changes so often that there are more than 150 new dishes each week, and that doesn’t even include the delicious special events. The twice-monthly Black and Gold dining features high-class offerings like steak, lobster, and king crab, and other mouthwatering events include the Cram Jam, a Jell-O-eating contest, and Get Wild, which features exotic meats like kangaroo, rattlesnake, and emu right in the main dining hall. But it doesn’t stop there: Kennesaw is one of the universities most committed to sustainability and health. The campus dietitian and the executive chef worked together to come up with Wise Choice meals, which are low in sodium, low in calories, and heart-healthy. As for sustainability, Kennesaw composts, reclaims rainwater, recycles, diverts more than 43,800 pounds of waste from landfills each month, and recycles cooking oil. If you ever want to get off campus, hit up Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria, which was featured on Man vs. Food for its infamous Carnivore Challenge.
#4 Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
Johns Hopkins’ dining services boast 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.
#3 Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
For the first time in four years, Bowdoin College’s dining program failed to snag the No. 1 spot on this list — but through no fault of their own. After all, every single menu item here is made from scratch, the two dining halls serve completely different menus, and menus are devised with whole foods, creative recipes, and the skillful use of herbs and spices in mind.
Dining services truly believe 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. 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 their 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.
#2 Columbia University, New York City
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, 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, Columbia dining services have completely eliminated the use of trans fats in their cooking and make a large percentage of their food from scratch, including marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella. 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. The registered dietitian on campus is available both online and in person for one-on-one consultations with students. And what about events, you may ask? Well some of the most notable and exciting ones include Ice Cream and Sundaes, Sabor Latino Food Day, National Nutrition Month, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar, and the Food Expo. In the past year alone, culinary innovations include upgrading to hormone- and antibiotic-free pork and chicken; adding visits from chefs, including Jacques Torres and Robert Irvine, to the calendar; a chef’s table featuring cooking demos from guest chefs in the dining hall; cooking classes by executive chef Michael DeMartino; and menu additions like cold brew iced coffee and fresh-made sushi. In the last year alone, Columbia added 20 new special event/theme nights, a new “Chef’s Station,” new dishes (part of a 30 percent overhaul of the menus), a Snapchat account, a permanent vegan food station, the option to opt for a kosher or halal meal plan at no additional charge, and they took over concessions at Baker Field. The Green Restaurant Association also certified all dining halls as Level 1 Certified Green Restaurants in 2016.
#1 Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Duke has 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 all day? Don’t you worry, 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. Oh yeah, and Duke Dining holds more than 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 dining program? Because we don’t. We didn’t in 2015 either, yet the school continued building. Now, with the West Union renovation (called “the most cutting-edge service that has ever been attempted in a university dining environment” by the school) having been completed just in time for the 2016–2017 school year, there are 13 additional spots for Duke students to choose from.