College dining halls in the past tended to focus on quantity, not quality. Endless grilled cheese sandwiches. Mountains of tater tots. Mystery meat with mystery gravy. “Blue drink,” whatever that means.
As general awareness about what we eat and where it comes from has risen, however, so too have college dining halls changed up what they serve to students. And according to website Niche, which ranks both K-12 schools and colleges and universities on a number of different factors, two Maine colleges are among the best in the country for quality of food served to students. The number one ranked school in the country for food is Virginia Tech, out of 100 overall listed in the site’s annual ranking of best college food.
Bowdoin College in Brunswick was ranked number four overall as best in the country, based on five factors: how good the food is according to student opinion, overall value, the variety of healthy foods available, convenient hours and accommodation of special diets. Bowdoin offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options every day. It also offers lots of organic and earth-friendly foods, like cage-free eggs, organic produce and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Some sample gourmet dishes being served in the next few weeks include seared tuna and mango salsa, chicken and sausage paella and Mongolian vegetable hot pot. According to Niche, the average cost of a meal plan for the year is $6,598, and students rank the school a 4.7 out of 5 for overall quality.
Coming in at number eight was Bates College in Lewiston, which, like Bowdoin, places a similar emphasis on accommodating special diets and putting a spotlight on healthy foods — Bates offers a whole vegan bar, in fact. Bates also offers a wide array of local and Maine-sourced ingredients, like Pineland Farms cheese, Grandy Oats granola and Maine produce. Gourmet dishes served include Indonesian tempeh with peanut and coconut, Caponata Siciliana and a caramelized onion and bleu cheese pasta bake. An average cost for a meal plan was not included in Bates’ ranking, but students rank the school a 4.5 out of 5 for overall quality.
A bit further down the list comes Colby College in Waterville, ranked at number 40. The average cost of a meal plan there is $5,670, and it was ranked 4.1 out of 5 for overall food quality by students.