With summer upon us and college-bound students preparing for their first semester in college, few things can be more daunting for these rising college freshmen than leaving the comfort and security of mom’s home cooking. However, the horror stories of campus dining are not all true, and there are some schools that are going the extra mile to keep students coming back for seconds.
For those students who seek gastronomy within a standard meal plan, there are many schools known for their top-notch culinary creations. If an epicurean experience is high on your list of priorities, here is Dr. Kat’s list of foodie-friendly schools to consider when creating your balanced college list.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA
With their unusual mascot, the Hoakies, it’s no wonder Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, VA takes a unique approach to campus meal options. VT’s dining halls have been at the top of best campus food lists since 2008, with decadent meal plan offerings like fresh lobster, coffee beans roasted on-site, and prime cut steak from the school’s West End Market.
Looking for a little taste of home? Parent and student submitted recipes are added to the dining menu at the beginning of each school year, and diners vote for their favorites.
With the Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm, students have a hand in growing the fruits and vegetables that go into their tasty on-campus meals. The 2.25 acre garden can produce over 44,600 pounds of produce for VT’s hungry students. And with the Farms & Fields Project, VT has made strong partnerships with local farmers to provide students with organic and local options, along with seasonal menu items. All of this is also available as part of one of the least expensive meal plans in the state, with more than 10,000 off-campus students opting to sign up.
There is more to VT than just a refined palate, however. Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, VT has grown to a 125-building, 2,600-acre main campus with educational research facilities across the state. Its prime location in the New River Valley of the Appalachian Mountains and a study abroad program in Switzerland will whet the appetite of any adventure seeker.
Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO
Another campus dedicated to fresh, delicious food while emphasizing sustainability and the benefits of locally-grown produce is Colorado College. The campus boasts a student garden, which takes up a third of an acre in the college president’s backyard and produces radishes, kale, broccoli, and other produce for the school’s dining services.
This small, private university has a large appetite for unique dining options that emphasize seasonal and fresh flavors. The cafeteria at Rastall has a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan entrees that are so tasty they appeal to even the most carnivorous of students.
On-campus eateries Benjamin’s and The Preserve are also known for their made-to-order items including burritos, pizza, sandwiches, and stir fry entrees, made with only fresh ingredients.
Colorado College, located in Colorado Springs, is a small institution with just over 2,000 students. Along with its focus on sustainability and healthy eating, the school is also dedicated to a personal education experience. Colorado College operates on a “block plan,” with the academic year divided into eight three-and-a-half week terms. Only one class is taken during each “block,” and enrollment is capped at 25, allowing for more lab and research time along with an intimate learning environment.
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
In a state known for its culinary prowess, Oregon State University’s dining services has certainly lived up to the area’s expectations. And with a student body totaling close to 25,000, there are a lot of critics and appetites to consider.
At OSU, it’s ask and you shall receive. The school’s head of dining services is very receptive to suggestions from the students, even adding a Buffalo Chicken Wrap to every campus menu after one student wrote a column mentioning the campus’s lack of spicy chicken. The dining services team also frequently monitors social media to address any online grievances.
However, there are few complaints to be had with chefs trained in Monterrey, Mexico, to capture authentic Mexican flavors at OSU’s Serrano Grill. The campus restaurants also boast many organic and local options, with 10-20% of the school’s dining budget spent on locally-grown produce.
There’s also a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options, along with grass-fed beef for those with meatier appetites.
Located just 85 miles south of Portland’s famous dining scene, this public research university has more to offer than just tasty campus meals. The school is home to more than 200 degree programs and just over 300 student clubs and organizations, as well as the MU Basement, a 8,500 square foot recreation facility beneath the university commons.
Corvallis, while small, is a growing city located within driving distance of federal and state parks, the Cascade Range, and several rivers. Students enjoy Division I athletics with the OSU Beavers, and for those who like to give back, “The Campaign for OSU” is a billion-dollar effort to help students with research and volunteer opportunities to improve the global community.
Paul Smith’s College, Paul Smiths, NY
For the foodie who wants to do more than just taste good food, Paul Smith’s College lets students not only learn how to create decadent dishes, but also how to run a successful restaurant.
The school’s culinary arts and service management concentration is a four-year program that gives students a comprehensive culinary education with a strong business and marketing base. Students take a variety of culinary and business courses, including cooking, wine studies, advertising and promotion, accounting, and nutrition.
The school is also home to two restaurants, seven laboratory kitchens, and an on-campus retail bakery, offering culinary students the opportunity to work in various departments while also serving their fellow students delicious meals.
Located in Paul Smiths, NY, the college is the only four-year higher education institution within the Adirondack State Park. With a student body of just over 1,000, this private college offers a unique learning experience with concentrations in forestry, wildlife science, business, and recreation, to name a few.
Aside from the hands-on experience in the kitchen, in labs, or in the classroom, students also enjoy great extracurricular and athletic activities, with teams including soccer, basketball, Nordic skiing, and the woodsman’s team. The school also hosts many recreational activities, including snowshoeing, camping, hiking, and kayaking.
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Another foodie school that produces just as many culinary masters as tasty meals is Drexel University.
In the school’s Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts program, students are taught a mix of culinary and business skills, with a strong emphasis on global entrepreneurism. Culinary Art students take classes in the school’s state-of-the-art cooking labs, and run the campus’s Academic Bistro, a fully functional restaurant and lounge. The program includes an integrated minor in business, with coursework including management and accounting.
Drexel boasts one of the country’s best co-op programs, with most majors requiring students to participate in at least one work program for credit and experience. Many of the co-ops are paid, and about a third of Drexel’s graduates are offered jobs by their co-op employers.
In addition to co-op programs and a practicum, culinary students also have the opportunity to study abroad in London.
Located in Philadelphia, PA, this private college has an undergraduate enrollment of about 12,000. Students can participate in over 160 student clubs and organizations, including over 25 fraternities and sororities.
While campus dining is a staple of college life, it can satisfy the gourmet student! Other schools for foodies include Cornell University, Bryn Mawr College, Tufts University, and Boston College. Keep these schools in mind when building your college list and from the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs!) we wish you the best of luck in your college search!