25 Colleges with the Best Food

March 22, 2024

best college food in us

Given how competitive and demanding the college application process already is, when considering where to attend, the quality of food on college campuses might not be your biggest concern. Aside from academics or social life, you’re probably considering how beautiful a campus is, or how nice the dorms are, or  how much safety is prioritized, but to think about just how good the food is? To ask where is the best college food? Are these even reasonable questions? Well, absolutely. You’ll find that certain colleges directly implement their principles into how they source their food, whether that’s via sustainability efforts or in their offerings of both local and global cuisine to support independent businesses.

Check out below the top 25 colleges with the best food in the country and find out why:

1) University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts has consistently ranked #1 as the nation’s best campus food. With food offered across 4 residential dining commons, 12 eateries at the Campus Center, over 20 cafes, The University Club, Concessions, 2 food trucks and their Catering Department, you’ll be sure to have options for when you grab a meal with friends or are running to class hungry. Their mission is “to serve you a variety of healthy and flavorful meals featuring local, regional and world cuisine, served in a sustainable and environmentally-conscious manner.”

2) Cornell University

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York is the first Ivy League university on this list of colleges with the best food. Offering students a diverse variety of dining options and fresh quality of food, Cornell Dining “takes pride in providing our customers with a rich dining experience, and not just a meal.” You can find these food selections across their 29 campus eateries, which include cafes, coffee houses, dining rooms, food courts and convenience stores. Lastly, the staff at Cornell Dining consists of over 400 chefs and skilled workers who are committed to helping students, from celebrating holiday-themed meals to enjoying special occasions.

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3) Bowdoin College

In Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin College doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to their dining: “Food at Bowdoin is a big deal” is in bold font on their dining website. From their attention to detail in students’ special diets to their commitment to sustainability, Bowdoin delivers on their passion for food, which is evident through their organic garden.

4) Pitzer College

Located in Claremont, California, Pitzer College is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium and joins this list of colleges with the best food because of its extensive dining options. McConnell Bistro is the main dining hall, and students can also eat at the Pit Stop Cafe, the Shakedown Cafe and the Grove House. The Grove House is a student-run restaurant serving dishes from locally grown produce and is where you can also attend community events.

5) Washington University in St. Louis

In Missouri’s Washington University in St. Louis, you can expect to find award-winning chefs in the kitchen. As stated on their dining website, they “believe your dining experience is critical to your success here at WashU, and we are dedicated to delivering a best-in-class campus dining program.” Students have a vast array of exciting options to enjoy, such as pop-ups or food trucks throughout the year, and dietary restrictions or allergies are catered to extensively, such as Kosher or Halal dining options.

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6) Vanderbilt University

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University joins the list of colleges with the best food because of their attention to detail. They believe that “food sustains not only our bodies, but also our communities and environment” and their efforts have not gone unnoticed, especially since they are recipients of the prestigious Ivy Award. Boasting a global menu that caters to dietary needs and preferences, Vanderbilt Dining serves students and faculty across 23 locations.

7) University of Dayton

Students at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio won’t be surprised to see their school on this list. Consistently ranked as one of the colleges with best campus food in the country, the University of Dayton’s dining services take pride in their commitment to sustainability and in providing the highest quality of food, beverage and service to their community. For example, check out the Emporium, which was the first Just Walk Out store in Ohio that allowed students to pay with their meal plan.

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8) Virginia Tech

Situated in Blacksburg, Virginia, this university joins this list of best college food because, simply put, they believe that “food is home.” Virginia Tech’s Dining Services “aims to be the leader of college and university food service by providing innovative and exceptional food, venues, programs, and services while fostering student development and a sense of community.” With nine dining center locations, 49 shops and restaurants and over 120 yearly events, it’ll be a challenge to not see what they’re cooking.

9) Kansas State University

Kansas State University, located in Manhattan, Kansas, offers students award-winning meals that are always made from scratch. Students and faculty can dine at the Derby Dining Center, which serves students who live in Ford, Haymaker, Moore and West residence halls, in addition to those in Smurthwaite Leadership/Scholarship House, and the Kramer Dining Center, which serves students in Goodnow, Marlatt and Wefald residence halls.

10) St. Olaf College

In Northfield, Minnesota, St. Olaf College has three campus dining options that are all accessible at Buntrock Commons. Stav Hall is where students can go for full service dining. The Pause Kitchen offers food cooked by students. Students can also take away bag lunches and enjoy a meal at The Cage, the campus cafe.

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11) University of Richmond

The University of Richmond in the state of Virginia joins this list of colleges with the best food because of their choice of options and accessibility. Students can find nine dining locations spread across campus, where they can enjoy a meal buffet-style or have a late night snack: Heilman Dining Center, The Cellar, Dean’s Den, Eight-Fifteen at Boatwright, ETC, Lou’s, Organic Krush, Passport Café and Tyler’s.

12) Gettysburg College

In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Gettysburg College ranks as one of the country’s colleges with the best food due to their focus on nutrition and wellness, students’ needs and sustainability. As noted in their Dining Sustainability Initiatives, Gettysburg College’s Dining Services “believes that taking care of the environment is part of our stewardship and commitment to a sustainable future.”

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13) High Point University

High Point University in High Point, North Carolina has consistently ranked as #1 in campus dining according to Harvest Table. Pairing the nature of food with storytelling, High Point University emphasizes how they share their culinary story with total transparency, stay true to the way they serve food and grow roots in their community through their food. Additionally, as stated on their Dining Services website, “Our chefs go beyond technique and flavor development—they stay true to the High Point University Dining culinary commitments from sourcing to preparation.”

14) Wheaton College

Wheaton College is a Christian liberal arts college located in Wheaton, Illinois, and it joins this list of best campus food because of their emphasis on providing sustainable, local and delicious meals. Cafe Bon Appétit provides all of Wheaton College’s food services, giving students and faculty meals that are “locally and sustainably grown,” “raised humanely,” “made from scratch” and “customized to meet nutritional and dietary needs, as well as allergy restrictions.”

15) James Madison University

James Madison University, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, joins the list of colleges with the best food due to their convenient options in dining halls, coffee shops, restaurants and food courts. They cater to students’ dietary and religious needs, whether you are celebrating Ramadan or Easter, providing an international selection of food to choose from.

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16) Scripps College

As the second Claremont College to join this list of best campus food, Scripps College offers students the Cafe Bon Appétit experience at their Malott Dining Commons. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, Malott at Scripps College brings you freshly cooked meals that are entirely whole foods based. “From simmering stocks to finishing sauces and roasting meats, our approach to food allows us to provide fresh foods from whole ingredients.”

17) Wesleyan University

Located in Middletown, Connecticut, Wesleyan University ranks as one of the country’s best campus food colleges for the culinary expertise provided by Bon Appétit and their commitment to social responsibility. Different from other university food providers, “Bon Appétit manages the dining program for Wesleyan University, allowing Wesleyan to maintain oversight over all aspects of the dining program instead of letting an outside company make decisions” for the university.

18) Rollins College

Rollins College, situated in Winter Park, Florida, offers student dining options across their various locations: The Marketplace and Dave’s Boathouse in Cornell Campus Center, Fox Lodge in Lakeside, Bush Café in Bush Science Center and Cornell Café in the Cornell Social Sciences Building. The college employs a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Wellness Manager for Sodexo Campus Dining to support their efforts in nutrition and wellness.

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19) Muhlenberg College

Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg College has an award-winning dining service that has ranked them as the #1 college food in the state of Pennsylvania. The dining staff at Muhlenberg College seeks to help students “select delicious, nutritious and satisfying meals, snacks and desserts by highlighting well-balanced menu choices and providing nutritional information and tips to help you make choices that fit your needs.” Prioritizing sustainability, the food selection at Muhlenberg College supports farmers across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

20) Washington State University

Students at Washington State University, located in Pullman, Washington, have the opportunity to help serve the very food they eat. Washington State University’s Dining Services are the largest student employer on the WSU campus and offer eclectic dining options by the neighborhood: Southside, Northside or Hillside/Central.

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21) Mount Holyoke College

Located in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College joins the list of colleges with the best food for their well-crafted menus and proactive education about local and sustainable foods. Mount Holyoke’s Dining Services received an “A” from the Vegan Report Card for their plant-based dining options, making it the first college in western Massachusetts to receive such a grade.

22) Elon University

In Elon, North Carolina, Elon University joins this list as they emphasize health, wellness and sustainability. Elon University’s Dining Services ranks as one of the country’s best campus food providers due to their commitment to food that is additive-free, responsibly sourced, locally procured, made from scratch and nutritionally balanced. As stated on their website, “We keep our ingredients as clean as possible, so they taste the way nature intended. That means no artificial ingredients, additives or synthetic chemicals.”

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23) Rice University

Rice University, located in Houston, Texas, ranks as having some of the best campus food because of their intentionality. The kitchens at Rice University strive to address food allergens and special dietary needs, halal and kosher dining, and plant-based eating. Chefs will use herbs, vegetables and fruits from The Garden which feature regularly on menus throughout the semester. The Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden provides students the opportunity to learn more about sustainable urban agriculture.

24) Columbia University

New York City’s Columbia University ranks as one of the nation’s colleges with the best food due to the amount of detail their staff put into preparing every meal. Additionally, Columbia Dining has a Registered Dietitian supporting over 700 students with their dietary needs, and as food service operators, their aim is to be zero waste.

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25) Reed College

Reed College in Portland, Oregon has some of the best campus food due to their food services also being operated by Bon Appétit. Students can expect restaurant-style dining, with every meal being made from scratch. Committed to “quality, innovation, social responsibility, and customer satisfaction,” dining at Reed College is a student-centered experience that proactively addresses dietary needs and preferences.

Best College FoodWhether you’re a foodie or not

The culinary offerings of colleges have a significant impact on students’ overall well-being. Further, colleges with excellent food selection and value-driven initiatives demonstrate their attentiveness to diet, nutrition and community, believing that food truly fuels the mind and body. These academic institutions understand that their students need to eat well to thrive during and after their college years, and they’ll make it known by what’s on their plate.