Princeton Review has been ranking colleges for more than two decades for everything from dorms to dining. In the 2017 list for best campus dining food — which surveyed 137,000 students at 382 top schools — University of Massachusetts-Amherst was the number-one school, followed by Bowdoin College, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Olaf College, and James Madison University.
The one common theme observed by Princeton Review among most colleges is the growing importance of food as a decision-making factor for students.
"In researching our guides to help high school students determine the best college for them, we have learned that food is becoming an increasingly important factor in their decision-making process," says Rob Franek, editor in chief of The Princeton Review. "College Food Services have made incredible efforts to enhance students' dining experience and also to educate them about the food they eat."
In fact, when it comes to campus dining trends, providing students with healthy and sustainable food is of growing importance. Colleges are also focusing on educating students and making them part of the process. This is translating into schools accommodating dietary choices like vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
Take St. Olaf College, which makes everything from scratch and uses locally sourced ingredients, or Bowdoin College, which has parted ways with trans fats and corn syrup.
"Every one of the schools recognized for 'Best Campus Food' by The Princeton Review should be lauded for their focus on delicious, healthy, and sustainable dining," Franek says. "As I travel around the country, visiting schools and attending special dining events, I am blown away by the thoughtfulness and care that Dining Services puts into feeding and educating students about food. These are some of the trends that we are seeing."
College years shape the lives of students. As such, their relationship with food can be heavily influenced by the options they receive at their university.