College dining halls aren’t what they used to be. Today, university dining administrators are getting hip to their students’ healthy desires.
Looking at criteria like food variety and student satisfaction, “The Princeton Review” and websites like Niche regularly grade the quality of campus life at universities across the United States. We’ve taken a look at their rankings, as well as some of our own factors, like access to vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, to round up what we think are the best college campuses for healthy eating.
Read on to find out who makes the grade.
Maine’s Bowdoin College was rated top by “The Princeton Review,” and it earns a spot on our list as well. All of the produce they serve is grown on campus, and the kitchen sources only local, grass-fed beef for their hamburgers. With a menu that changes daily, their philosophy is that the key to healthy eating is having access to options.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
The University of Massachusetts-Amherst has four main dining halls and four key nutrition values: sustainability, world flavors, community, and health. They believe the plate should be small and the flavor big, and recently committed to having 20 percent of their food be sourced locally, humanely, and sustainably by 2020.
Recognized by animal rights organization PETA for being the most vegan-friendly university, Stanford also has an organic garden at each of its dining halls. The program recently won the 2016 Sani Award for Outstanding Food Service Program Innovation, and serves up healthy, seasonal food that’s free of trans fats, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Always a sure bet on healthy campus eating lists, Virginia Tech created a program called YES, or You’re Eating Smarter, to educate students about nutrition and healthy food options. They’ve also got a Farm and Fields Project that focuses on making sure that food in the dining halls is sustainably produced and locally sourced.
James Madison University
With a commitment to food diversity, the eats at James Madison University suit just about any dietary needs. We particularly like their commitment to locally sourced food — their kitchens are stocked with food that comes from within a 150-mile radius. They also host farmer’s markets and meat-“less” Mondays.
Cornell University is dedicated to serving up healthy and diverse eats to its student body, with all menus reviewed by a registered dietitian, who is also available for one-on-one consults. Twenty-one percent of their ingredients are local, with some dairy products actually produced on campus. Their “Eating Well” program also helps students identify healthier options with labels that have an apple logo on them, which signifies that the item is 100 percent whole grain, trans fat-free, and lower in fat, sugar, and salt.
Washington University offers one of the more unique programs on our list: Studio 40, a demonstration kitchen located in one of the university’s dining halls. Among other things, this kitchen plays host to students that want to learn how to cook and prepare their own healthy meal options. Campus dining services also use local food when possible, recyclable dishware, and coffee that is 100 percent fair trade.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The dining operation at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has been recognized with several awards, including the 2015 Governor’s Sustainability Award, and it was ranked the 2nd most vegan friendly school by PETA. It makes an effort to source food ingredients locally and provide students with a variety of healthful options, with 95 percent of its produce sourced from its own student farm.
Oberlin College’s Farm-to-Fork program seeks to get local food on student plates wherever possible. They also maintain sustainable seafood practices and purchase meat raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. They provide students with a Well-Being Indicator, which helps diners compare the nutrition of their menu options.
University of California, Davis
Twenty percent of the food served at U.C. Davis is grown sustainably, and much of it on campus. The college also has a Healthy Planet, Healthy Me program, which helps teach students about sustainable agriculture and earth-friendly health concepts. The school has been recognized by several organizations for their vegan options and has clear signage on all menus showing whether the food is vegetarian, locally grown, vegan, halal, or antibiotic-free.
Lewis and Clark College
The folks in Portland, Oregon are known for valuing health, the outdoors, and quality food, and that’s reflected in the eats at Lewis and Clark College. Placing a premium on farm-to-fork eating, many of their vegetables and fruits are both local and organic, and the meat is free of antibiotics.
Brown University goes above and beyond when it comes to providing healthy meal options with a focus on sustainability. Three of the dining halls are certified as green restaurants, and they consistently receive an A grade in PETA’s evaluation of vegan-friendly colleges.
At Oakland, California’s Mills College, there are vegan and vegetarian options aplenty at every meal. Bon Appétit, who manages their meal services, recently won an Acterra Award for sustainability. They support local agriculture, reduced use of antibiotics in meal production, and using cage-free eggs.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago has a serious commitment to sustainability. About 40 percent of their purchases come from women- and minority-owned businesses, and they buy foods and ingredients locally whenever possible. They are also committed to waste management and reduction. The menu options are plentiful too, servicing vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, halal, and kosher diets.
Like some of the other schools on this list, Colby College’s dining halls are managed by Bon Appétit, and like those others, the focus at Colby is providing healthy foods made sustainably with local ingredients. Their Farm-to-Fork program means they try to source as much as possible from within 150 miles of the school. They offer meal choices for a variety of special diets, and the menus change daily.