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by Vault Education Editors | October 07, 2009


When I visited colleges with my mother oh so many years ago, we made sure to eat at each school's student center. We had low expectations, and ate mostly cold sandwiches and burgers--what we had been taught to expect from mass-produced dining hall food. Our favorite was a simple, Thanksgiving-style turkey sandwich at the University of Virginia. Certainly not the gourmet sushi and organic produce students eat today. What would be our favorite if we toured college dining halls today?

The Daily Beast has ranked the top 15 best college meal plans in the United States. Says Kathleen Kingsbury:

"To impress today's prospective students, who were weaned on organic produce, Michael Pollan, and the Food Network, schools are rolling out dining options fit for a visiting head of state. Sushi chefs, gourmet coffee and organic food are standard now, and large cafeterias are being traded for smaller, more intimate restaurant-style dining. But some schools have upped the ante beyond even that, flying their chefs to far-flung regions where they're taught to cook authentic international haute cuisine, infusing their campus tap water with hints of cucumber and lemon, and hiring celebrity architects to build dining halls that resemble exclusive Manhattan brasseries--plunked down in the middle of verdant Iowan campuses."

Here are the Top 15 Best College Meal Plans:

  1. Oregon State University
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. St. Olaf College
  4. University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  5. Bowdoin College
  6. Washington University in St. Louis
  7. Grinnell College
  8. Mills College
  9. Stanford University
  10. Boston College
  11. Colorado College
  12. Wheaton College (IL)
  13. College of William and Mary
  14. University of California, Berkeley
  15. Illinois Institute of Technology

The most common thread among the schools is offering organic produce grown in school- or student-run gardens, hiring well-trained and experienced chefs and responding to student feedback. What strikes me is that very few top national universities (and zero Ivy League) have made the list, nor have many of the other top liberal arts colleges in the nation. And in the case of Virginia Tech, the cost of the meal plan is so low it includes non-student clients from the Blacksburg community.

Read more about each school's delicious eats at The Daily Beast.


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