This is our College Food State of the Union: Here are 6 colleges and universities that are making their dining options more diverse, sustainable, and delicious for students.
Bland, institutionalized college grub that many of us remember noshing is no more. Today, campus dining is anything but boring, and many schools are now placing a strong emphasis on sustainable, locally-sourced, and healthy food options. It’s not uncommon to spot grass-fed, organic beef, fresh produce sourced from the on-campus garden, all-vegan food stations, and adventurous, globally-inspired options. Sustainability is also a rising priority, and many schools are now taking steps to reduce food waste. Whether you’re a student or part of the faculty, high-quality, nutritious, and responsibly-sourced food at your fingertips is becoming the new normal in college dining.
For an inside look at how schools are bettering their dining programs, we’ve profiled several institutions that are making waves in three areas: sustainability, variety, and vegetarian and vegan options. For incoming freshmen, seasoned seniors, or involved parents, it’s important to stay in the know of dining options at your school—start by checking social media pages, as many schools will post daily menus or exciting food happenings on campus.
- Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME): From in-house butchery that sources local Maine beef to an on-campus organic garden that sustains the salad bar, Bowdoin's dining program is a self-sustaining machine. With help from student volunteers, the college's organic garden grows seasonal fruits, veggies, and flowers for use in the dining halls. The garden also has its own crop of maple trees, which were recently tapped for maple syrup. An on-campus bake shop ensures fresh breads, cookies, and more. Bowdoin is also moving to reduce waste by giving food scraps from dining halls to pig farmers for feed or to a local composting company.
- Bates College (Lewiston, ME): Bates is making waves in their campus dining program for their strong zero-waste initiatives. Currently the college diverts over 80% of its food waste to compost, recycling, or farmers as animal feed. A brand-new green dining facility on the campus boasts energy-efficient attributes. Additionally, the college has also installed waste-sorting stations around its campus to route trash for recycling, composting, or landfills.
- Duke University (Durham, NC): Operated by Bon Appétit Management, a food-service company known for providing institutions with quality eats, Duke offers a vast selection of popular local, regional, and national eateries. The university also offer meal plan perks such as Merchants-on-Points, where select vendors will deliver straight to student dorms. Duke also takes advantage of foodie destination Durham by partnering with local food trucks that park on-campus and accept student meal plans. To help students make smart choices, Duke runs an educational campaign called Balance Your Plate that works with University dietitians to ensure that healthy options are always available at Marketplace, the freshman dining hall.
- Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA): With 11 diverse dining centers on campus plus two university-run food trucks, it’s tough to tire of Virginia Tech’s food. Across the campus you can find a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar, a New York-style deli, a Brazilian churrascaria, and more. The two food trucks are both globally-inspired—one features Asian twists and the other is a spin on traditional Tex-Mex. Additionally, VT's Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, which maintains a livestock herd for research and educational use, has partnered with campus dining halls to give students hyperlocal options. In the past, students have enjoyed “Virginia Tech Milk” from the university’s dairy cows.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
- University of North Texas (Denton, TX): UNT opened Mean Greens in 2011 as the first all-vegan college dining facility in the country, offering an impressive spread of vegetable forward eats. The response across the student body has been overwhelmingly positive, with even non-vegans flocking to the all-you-can-eat dining hall as an opportunity to pack more fruits and veggies into their diets. UNT received an “A+” from animal advocacy group Peta2 for its vegan-friendly efforts.
- Stanford University (Stanford, CA): With daily menus that are 80% vegetarian and 50% vegan in their dining halls, Stanford offers an impressive amount of meatless and animal product-free options. We don't mean pasta or bread—for breakfast, lunch, and diner, you can find nutritionally-balanced options such as avocado toast, vegan quinoa burgers, wild mushroom and spinach lasagna, vegetarian pho, shaved Brussels sprouts slaw, and more. Vegan and Vegetarian dishes (as well as those with food allergens) on all menus are clearly labeled and easy to find for students. Peta2 awarded Stanford an “A” for its wealth of vegan and vegetarian options.
Looking for more ways to eat smart at college? Check out our helpful guide: Everything You Need to Know About Eating Healthy in the College Dining Hall.