Good Colleges with Good Eats

Food ranks high on teenagers’ priority lists. I can’t document this statement, but I’m willing to bet that more than one high school senior has made a college enrollment decision based on his or her reaction to the quality of food encountered on a campus visit. Trust me; there is a huge variation in the appeal of food across the thousands of schools out there. I can’t help but be reminded of the cafeteria scene in Animal House, when Bluto goes through the chow line at Faber College. He loads his tray with what looks like seven metric tons of every conceivable food item (all of which look rather appetizing), and he even samples some of the day’s menu while loading up.

This scene reminds me of my own college-food days, which were positively prehistoric by today’s gourmet standards. As a side note, you might want to check out the name of the person in charge of campus food services. During my freshman year, there was a gentleman in charge whose last name was Bloodgood. Hmm. Not that appealing in relation to salads and meatballs, but today (if he were still in charge) he may have a kind of cultish appeal for all those students who love the movie Twilight. As if Mr. Bloodgood (why do I keep thinking of “Mr. Goodwrench”?) wasn’t edgy enough, one elite university has (or maybe had) a food services director by the name of Orifice. Another interesting connection.

Well, regardless of who may be in charge of your college’s food services, you may be interested to know which colleges are judged to have the best food for its students. Popular food and beverage website, The Daily Meal, has just unveiled its premier list of the 52 Best Colleges for Food in America.

The compilation was measured against several tiers of criteria, including:

• Healthy Food: Meals that are fresh, made from scratch, and cooked in small batches,
• Events: Themed dinners, picnics, cooking classes — anything to engage undergrads,
• Local: Programs that support the community with local purchases,
• Sustainable: Incorporating eco-friendly practices into the dining program,
• Accessibility and Service: How easy it is for students to connect with dining services, and how well they are taken care of, and
• The X Factor: Something that made our jaws drop.

So, before you finish your college search, you may care to explore where the good eats are. Here are some highlights to help your search:

52 Best Colleges for Food in America

If you’re a food-loving student and you don’t go to one of these schools, you might want to transfer.

. . . After connecting with surprisingly candid — and incredibly passionate — dining services directors, managers, and chefs, we learned that the evolution in college dining has birthed a few trends. Our version of CliffsNotes below:

• Today’s undergrad is already educated about food when he or she arrives on campus

• He or she is generally interested in experiencing new spices, flavors, and cuisines — and wants the university to help this pursuit

• It’s all about local, organic, and sustainable. Students want to know where their food is coming from, and more and more universities are happy to tell them

Our methodology? To come up with our list of the 52 Best Colleges for Food in America, we looked to several sources — college dining services awards, respected college lists like the Princeton Review, news stories, and our own interviews. Our focus was not only on the actual food, but schools’ dining programs as a whole.

To narrow things down, we looked at a variety of factors. A few major trends prevented a large number of schools from even being considered for our list. Many schools failed to provide students with the most basic of options:

• Unsanitary Conditions or Health Code Violations: Students have found everything from thumbtacks to grasshoppers in their campus food. Completely unacceptable
• Lack of Variety: Certain menus listed the same meals each and every day, and many simply weren’t healthy. Far less offensive, but still not OK
• Missing Service: The dining services teams at some schools appear to be far less accessible, and fail to create a community for students through food education and/or events. . . .

. . . Our goal with this list is to highlight the most impressive, interesting, and plain-old fun elements of the dining programs we selected — so print out your class schedule . . . and check out The 52 Best Colleges for Food in America.

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I purposely haven’t listed the Top 52 colleges. You have to read the article to appreciate the details of why some schools’ food programs rate higher than others. But, here’s a hint: Dartmouth College is #52. From there on, the food only gets better, at least in the eyes of The Daily Meal.

As they say round these here parts, Bon appetite.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

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