Food isn’t usually a focal point of the college experience, but some schools have received high marks for their offerings.
Website that ranks colleges Niche has analyzed, based on a combination of meal plan costs as reported by the colleges and student reviews, which schools are at the top of the class in its 2023 Best Food ranking.
The best colleges have excellent dining options on campus, so that all students, regardless of their food preferences or dietary restrictions, can find something they like to eat.
Colleges with best food
Events like the Wild, Wild West event, which features Western-themed entrees, and the National Pancake Day event, which features pancakes with a variety of delicious toppings, are held throughout the semester at Columbia.
At Columbia, over half of the dining hall’s produce comes from within a 100-mile radius. There must be complete openness; most of the data regarding the origins of the food served to students can be found on the website.
Napkins are made from 100% recycled material, there are no trays used in the dining area, and any unused appliances are given to those in need.
University of California: Berkeley
When it comes to dining options, UC Berkeley is right up there with the best of them. UC Berkeley’s dining hall throws parties for almost every holiday and even some that aren’t technically holidays, like a pajama party and a Hawaiian Luau. Brown Dining Hall at UC Berkeley features an almost entirely local menu. The motto “less meat, better meat” promotes vegetarian options and treats meat as an accessory in the dining hall.
Cafeteria fare includes tofu burgers and sandwiches in addition to fresh, in-season produce. To cut down on wasteful single-use plastic water bottles, a hydration station stocked with pure and sparkling water is made available.
Rice University has some of the best dining halls of any university. All of the meals served at Rice University’s cafeterias are prepared fresh daily. Vegan and vegetarian options are always available during meal times.
Reduced food waste and saved water from not having to wash as many dishes are two major benefits of trayless dining. No trans fats are used in any of the meals. If you’re a student interested in learning more about wellness and nutrition, there are resources available to you.
In an effort to encourage students to eat locally and make fresh produce more accessible, the university also hosts a farmers market.
University of Richmond
The University of Richmond places a premium on providing students with nutritious and appetizing meals.
Students at the best college for food can keep track of what they eat with a mobile-friendly nutrition app. Foods with less than 30 percent of their calories coming from fat are just one example of the “feeding fitness” options available at each restaurant that follow the guidelines set forth by the American Dietetic Association.
Here, most of the fruit and vegetables come from nearby suppliers. Leftovers from meals are composted, and eco-friendly dishwashing products are used.
Fresh seafood and produce from local farmers are served at the university’s year-round Live Well, Dine Green events.
University of Washington
If you’re looking for a top culinary school, UW should be on your list. UW farm produces a portion of the school’s fruit and vegetable offerings.
All of our eggs and dairy products come from local farms. The campus location of the local pizza chain also features pizza made with in-season, locally sourced ingredients. Anyone interested in checking out the calories and other nutrients in their food can do so on the site.
The University of Washington composts all food scraps and uses compostable take-out packaging to reduce the amount of trash that is sent to landfills. In addition, there is a per-drink discount for students who bring their own reusable mugs.
St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI
St. Norbert College is proud to serve its students some of the best food in the state of Wisconsin and some of the best food in the country, having been ranked ninth for both categories. The Lodi Dodi Smoke Burger, created by the campus dining chefs at St. Norbert College, is a student favorite and a finalist in the 2017 Blended Burger Project hosted by the James Beard Foundation.
California Baptist University in Riverside, CA
Does it sound like heaven to eat a Chick-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich in the library while you study? That could be the case for those enrolled at California Baptist University. The university is home to several popular eateries, such as Brisco’s Cafe, Chick-Fil-A, El Monte Grill, and The Habit Burger Grill.
Bates College in Lewiston, ME
Bates College ranks as the fifth-best college cafeteria and the fourteenth-best small university in the United States, respectively. According to one graduating student, “the food in [the] commons is always great, but if you’re not feeling anything at the vegan bar or brick oven, there’s always 30 plus types of cereal to choose from every day.” ”
San Diego State University; San Diego
Nori Now, a sushi concept, and Tapenade, which serves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, are just two of the many stations available in the University of San Diego’s main dining hall. Oliva Cafe, one of its newest eating establishments, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner all inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean and prepared with olive oil from the area.
St. John Fisher University; Rochester, N.Y.
Food options at St. John Fisher University’s Ward-Haffey Dining Hall include okonomiyaki and lentil chili, among others. There is also the Fisher Sub Shoppe and Sono Latin Grill, where students can get a variety of Latin American dishes and enjoy the weekly Quesadilla Wednesdays event.
University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), Amherst, Mass.
UMass students have their pick of cuisines thanks to the university’s four dining halls and numerous retail outlets. The dining service partners with regional farmers to source fresh ingredients, and they also have a student-run farm on campus.
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles
First place goes to UCLA’s dining program, which provides students with three all-you-can-eat dining halls and numerous shopping opportunities. The dining services department in 2019 launched Bruin Dine in collaboration with several student organizations to reduce food waste and address food insecurity by providing students with access to free meals prepared from leftovers from the dining halls.
University of Pennsylvania
Penn has thought of everything a student could want when it comes to food service, including a kosher cafe, a grocery store on campus, and all-you-can-eat dining halls.
Free nutrition counseling is available to students for issues such as eating disorders and food allergies, as well as general nutrition education. Many steps have been taken toward sustainability at the university, such as the purchase of antibiotic- and hormone-free ground beef and dairy that was not produced using rBGH.
All meals are made from scratch by Penn’s culinary staff using regional and seasonal ingredients. Some of the campus catering trucks are powered by biofuel made from recycled fryer oil and food scraps.
Syracuse capitalizes on the lack of strong NCAA teams in New York by marketing itself as “New York’s College Team.” Many famous athletes have come through Syracuse University, including current Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and hall of fame running back Jim Brown. However, Ernie Davis, a running back on the Orange football team from 1959 to 1961 who was known as “The Express,” may be the most well-known athlete in the school’s history. Davis, the first African-American football player to win the Heisman Trophy, is a campus hero at Syracuse University in upstate New York.
The residence hall and cafeteria known as “Ernie” Davis Hall opened in 2009. Lines almost always extend out the door, making this the most popular campus eatery. Everything from American diner food to international cuisine is available in the cafeteria-style dining hall. Students who want to show their friends a good time without breaking the bank will appreciate the Syracuse dining plan’s guest swipes. While Ernie is the most well-known dining facility at Syracuse, students also have access to Sadler Hall (across the street from the Carrier Dome) and FOOD.COM (in the building housing the prestigious Newhouse School of Communications).
Virginia Tech’s blue ribbon dining program has been recognized on a national scale for the excellence of its cuisine and the breadth of its menu. In 2016, their dining hall was ranked number one in the country by niche.com, and it was ranked third in the nation for “Best College Food” by the prestigious Princeton Review. Virginia Tech, a shining example of an innovative hub for engineers, offers one of the most eco-friendly meal plans in the country as part of their ongoing commitment to sustainability. An estimated 50,000 pieces of paper trash are diverted from landfills every day thanks to the “Reusable Go-To” green containers used in their dining halls. These eco-friendly containers can be returned for a token at “OZZI” vending machines. The next time they visit the dining hall, students exchange their token for a container by paying the cashier with it. This method helps students reduce their environmental impact and eliminates the need for them to bring their container with them every time they visit the dining hall. Dining Services at Virginia Tech, which uses the containers, estimates annual savings of over $180,000 thanks to the eco-friendly technology.
Owens Hall’s dining services, which first opened to the public in 1991, are widely recognized as among the best in the country. There is a wide variety of stores and restaurants to choose from in Owens Hall, including Asian cuisine at Bowl Dynasty, American diner food at Flip’s, and freshly carved meat at the Carvery.
University of Massachusetts—Amherst
It stands to reason that UMass Amherst’s dining halls would be among the best in the country, given the school’s long history as a magnet for hospitality and culinary arts majors. Every day, the campus dining halls feed more than 15,000 students, making them the second-largest in the country. The Berkshire Dining Commons is an award-winning eatery that serves a variety of cuisines, including Pan Asian, and is located in the residential hub of the campus.
Berkshire is available around the clock, every day of the week. The Hampshire Dining Hall takes great pride in providing “minimally processed foods,” such as vegetarian options that are high in protein and low in fat, to students who are interested in maintaining a healthy diet. More than $3 million was invested in New England farms in the previous year so that all UMass dining halls could use fresh dairy, vegetables, meat, and fruits. Up until now, the fresh seafood that has become UMass’s trademark has been sourced locally from the fishing industry, which is the lifeblood of many coastal New England communities.
Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, offers a rigorous liberal arts education in a small, welcoming community of fewer than 2,000 students.
Bowdoin has some of the best dining halls in the country. Thorne Hall and the Moulton Union both provide a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options for students. Maine farms supply many of the ingredients used in the dishes.
The college is committed to environmental responsibility and sustainability in addition to providing healthy dining options. The Environmental Committee at Bowdoin is involved in the decision-making process for the school’s dining policies.
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the most prestigious private universities in the Midwest. The dining options at Washington University are just as impressive as the university’s academic offerings. Waste is also reduced thanks to eco-friendly measures.
The university’s dining services prioritize student health and well-being by providing a wide variety of nutritious and appetizing meal options. School lunch programs that adhere to the Bear Balance Movement’s emphasis on healthy eating feature items from local farms that don’t use hormones or antibiotics in their livestock.
Washington University is committed to doing its part to protect the environment. The university’s dining halls have adopted a zero-waste philosophy by switching to compostable, recyclable, and reusable flatware and plates as well as reusing cooking oil as biofuel.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech, which has been around since 1872, is widely considered to be one of the best public research institutions in the United States. There are more than 29,000 undergraduates at the university, and a large percentage of them choose to live in the university’s residence halls.
More than seven million meals are provided each year by Virginia Tech. The You’re Eating Smarter Program at the university improves students’ health and reduces waste. More than 50,000 pounds of produce per year comes from Homefield Farm, an organic farm on the Virginia Tech campus that is run entirely by students.
Dickinson College, located in rural Pennsylvania on 170 acres, was the first college to be chartered in the United States after the country was founded. While taking progressive stances on environmental issues, the school values and preserves its rich history. Dickinson College promotes a waste-free mentality in its dining halls, one of many innovative programs offered by the institution.
Students are strongly encouraged to minimize their own food waste in accordance with the college’s “tray-free” policy. In addition, Dickinson College has a farm where they grow organic food to sell to the dining halls. The school also has a vegan, certified kosher cafe called The KOVE.
College students may benefit from nutrition education if efforts are made to improve the availability of healthy food and drink options on and near campuses.