75 best colleges for food in America

These colleges impressed us with their incredible dining programs.

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

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

For our third annual list, we’ve expanded our winners’ circle to 75 colleges to offer even more contenders the chance to show just how much their dining programs shine. We have used much of the same criteria as last year’s list, but this time around we considered the food scene of the surrounding area in our ranking. Students like to get off campus every once in a while, and if the food offered around the schools was easily accessible and highly rated, that was a contributing factor in the overall rating of colleges. We also didn’t consider student feedback this year because we didn’t want school pride to interfere with the ranking. We wanted our ranking to be based on quantifiable criteria that would really determine the best colleges for food without passionate students and alumni skewing the list.
We started out with a full list of around 2,000 colleges, and after rigorous research and reaching out to their dining services, we narrowed that list down to around 320 knockouts. These standout colleges were highly respected for a myriad of reasons across the country, and had dining programs that caught our attention. After that, we chose the final 75 by looking at specific efforts each college was making toward improving taste, nutrition, and community and deciding what was really exceptional. It seems that students across the country are becoming more mature in their tastes and demanding in what they expect of their college dining experience. Students want their food to taste great, to be fun, and to be sustainable, and colleges are responding.

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

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