Oh, college. A time filled with more caffeine, tears, and nostalgia-producing best-years-of-your-life memories than you could ever anticipate when you begin your first year of undergrad. Of course academics take center stage in any student’s college experience, but an oft-neglected factor in choosing where you will spend the next four (or six … hey, college is hard!) years of your life is, of course, food. Finding a college that consistently serves satisfying vegan meals will make the difference between having to tough it out to get your degree and truly feeling at home. To get the inside scoop on which colleges are shaping the future of on-campus vegan dining, VegNews turned to peta2’s Manager of College Campaigns, Kenneth Montville. “Students don’t want to support an industry that devastates the environment and slaughters nearly two million animals every hour, so the student demand for vegan food is skyrocketing,” Montville says. “peta2 is helping forward-thinking schools across the country expand their plant-based menus, collaborate with student animal-rights leaders, and even veganize entire dining halls.” With Montville’s expertise, we compiled the top 10 schools with the best vegan dining commons in the United States.
Kent State University
The midwest doesn’t get enough love when it comes to veganism. But Kent State is making big strides toward establishing its Ohio campus as a destination for exceptional plant-based eats. Busy students can call ahead and order vegan takeout from Veggie A-Go-Go, which serves everything from plant-based macaroni and cheese, to channa masala, to Caribbean tofu with pineapple salsa, black beans, and rice. As if eating vegan at KSU wasn’t easy enough already, students can navigate the massive amounts of campus dining options with the Bite App—which labels organic, vegan, and gluten-free menu items.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Plant-powered brainiacs are especially well taken care of at MIT thanks to famous vegan chef and cookbook author Brian McCarthy. The chef—who has cooked for US senators and the beloved Obamas—has transformed MIT’s dining program into one that offers accessible, delicious plant-based fare during breakfast, lunch, and dinner at every dining hall on campus. Students who would rather take five 8am finals in a row than hit the salad bar one more time will take comfort in offerings such as Vegan Shepherd’s Pie and Teriyaki Roast “Pork.”
A commitment to green issues and a large environmental studies department ensures that Oberlin College has a multitude of vegan options on their menu every day. With options like Moroccan Style Vegetable Tagine with Organic Tempeh and Beer Battered Organic Tofu with Just Mayo Rémoulade on the menu, it’s no surprise that more than just the vegetarian students are choosing plant-based options over their animal-based counterparts. In addition to the options provided in dining halls, the university features two dining co-ops whose primary focus is serving up vegetarian and vegan dishes (you can also take part in a workshop on tofu and seitan making).
University of California, San Diego
San Diego, CA
Despite veganism taking a huge role at other University of California campuses such as Davis, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz, no UC can can compete with the plant-based offerings at UC San Diego. After a day of studying at the beach, grab a bowl of cruelty-free jambalaya, gnocchi, or tortilla soup at the all-vegan campus restaurant Roots, which opened in 2012 due to student demand.
University of Colorado Boulder
An environmentally minded university with a strong connection to its beautiful surroundings in the Rocky Mountains, University of Colorado Boulder puts that passion for environmentalism into action with its abundant plant-based offerings. Campus chefs took part in a Harvard-based training program that focused on helping the university’s dining staff become more well-versed in vegan cooking. They are committed to offering a plant-based entreé at every meal and the options are incredibly diverse, with Vegetable Pakora, Pumpkin Coconut Chia Pudding, Harvest Sushi Rolls, and Aloo Muter as just a few examples of the delicious offerings this university is dishing up.
University of North Carolina, Asheville
North Carolina’s blossoming vegan scene is not limited to downtown Asheville, but extends well into the UNC Asheville campus. While you can find plenty of options at Café Jet, The Down Under, and The Austin Grill Express, your best bet for quality vegan fare is at Brown Dining Hall. Their unprecedented plant-based breakfast options consist of vegan grits, maple pancakes, and their spicy tofu scramble with a side of hashbrowns. For lunch, you might be able to grab some Chimichurri Charred Cauliflower, or slap some Barbecue Tofu in between a vegan bun with some Hampton Creek Foods’ eggless Just Mayo. We have a feeling that the Tar Heel’s vegan chops will one day catch up to its legendary basketball program.
University of North Texas
A trailblazer when it comes to vegan dining on college campuses, University of North Texas opened the 100 percent vegan Mean Greens dining hall in the fall of 2011. Only weeks after its opening, the university saw meal plan sales increase by 35 percent. Now serving approximately 4,500 students a day, this is the most utilized dining commons on campus. The vegan options offered are amazingly diverse—from polenta with wild mushroom ragout to fettucini with greens and caramelized onions.
Warren Wilson College
Cradled by lush rolling hills, Warren Wilson College has a longstanding reputation for serving sustainable, local vegan food. In the midst of this college masquerading as a summer camp stands Cowpie Café—a 17-year-old student-initiated vegetarian (but mostly vegan) dining hall. The plant-based campus eatery prioritizes utilizing produce grown on campus, and makes staples like kombucha, fresh bread, seitan, and salad dressings in-house. Warren Wilson vegans can devour the abundance of organic, locally sourced vegan options on the café’s outdoor patio.
Vegan dining is nothing new at Wesleyan University—they’ve had an all vegan section in their main dining hall for years thanks to Chef Stephanie Zinowski, who joined the dining staff in 2002. The vegan section in the dining hall has become very popular, with recipes such as Cashew Tofu Bake and Baked Macaroni and Cashew Cheese, now being multiplied 65-fold in order to meet student demand. Zinowski also hosts vegan cooking classes for students, where they’ve learned how to prepare and cook everything from Cashew Fried Rice to Aloo Gobi. The university has also seen success with their “Veg Out Tuesdays,” where the dining hall goes 100 percent vegetarian every other Tuesday and promotes plant-based eating as a healthful and sustainable choice.
New Haven, CT
The vegan options abound at this Ivy League university—all 18 dining locations offer a vegan entreé at every meal. Far from your average sad salad or soggy wrap, Yale’s dining halls and cafés serve up vegan waffles and potato-scallion hash for breakfast, sweet potato and black bean burgers for lunch, and an elegant apple and cardamom olive oil cake for dessert. The University also made an appearance at the sixth annual Ivy League Vegan Conference, hosted by Harvard, and incorporated the offering of vegan options on-campus as a core value of the university in 2016.
VegNews’ Editorial Assistants Nora Kovaleski and Sarah McLaughlin went vegan during their undergraduate years at University of California, Davis and University of California, Santa Cruz, respectively.
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