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 ...

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources