According to Gallup consumer data, 23% of Americans cut back on meat consumption between 2018 and 2019, with only 5% actually consuming more meat. This rise in plant-forward and meatless diets requires a shift in thinking from eateries across the country, including those at colleges and universities.
Although dining options are less important for some students, vegetarians and vegans must consider food options when choosing a school. To help these learners meet their needs, we ranked the best college dining halls for vegans and vegetarians.
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Our methodology considered the quantity, quality, and diversity of dining choices, as well as how well school's promote their vegan dining options. We also considered each school's commitment to nutrition, healthy living, and sustainability.
Top College Dining Halls for Vegans
Best College Dining Halls for Vegans
At the University of Maine, vegan diners have many options to choose from. Every dining facility at UMaine features at least one vegan entree at all meals. Additionally, the Wells Central dining hall offers all-vegan food stations. Diners can also access plant protein-based options, such as soy, lentils, and veggie burgers. UMaine clearly marks all vegan options to avoid confusion, and students can access nutrition and meal planning support from a dietician.
The main campus — based in Orono — holds a silver STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The school's dining halls also host an annual Harvest Week, where menu options feature items sourced from Maine.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Baltimore , Maryland
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides students with some of the best college dining halls for vegans, offering unique meal options at every facility. According to PETA's Vegan Report Card, the university also offers a vegan-only station. UMBC features plant-forward menus and accommodates diners who wish to have their food cooked on a separate grill.
UMBC grows fresh vegetables and herbs in a garden and partners with Just Food to ensure all other vegetables and many proteins come from local suppliers. The school also oversees a recycling program and a food recovery network. UMBC has a silver STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
The University at Buffalo caters to its vegan and vegetarian students by labeling vegan options and offering nondairy milk. The school received an A+ on PETA's Vegan Report Card and made its Dean's List. UB also participates in Meatless Mondays.
Vegan and vegetarian diners also enjoy access to meal support through nutrition advice and planning from UB's dietician and the NetNutrition system, which helps students select dining halls based on their nutritional needs. On the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education sustainability report, UB received a gold STARS rating.
Purchase, New York
Manhattanville College is based in Purchase, New York, and provides students with many vegan and vegetarian options. The college scores positively on every section of PETA's Vegan Report Card — including offering an all-vegan dining facility — and appears on its Dean's List.
Manhattanville has also established sustainability initiatives to reduce its environmental impact. The college started the Eat Local and Sustainable Seafood initiatives in 1999 and 2002, respectively, ensuring that all produce, proteins, and seafood come from local suppliers and sustainable reserves.
At Chatham University — based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — diners enjoy access to some of the best college dining halls for vegans and vegetarians. The school earned an A+ grade on PETA's Vegan Report Card and provides a vegan entree option at each meal in every campus dining hall. The university's Inspired Eats program provides allergen-free meals for vegetarians and vegans, along with meals made from scratch to accommodate those with rarer allergies.
The university holds a gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Chatham also focuses on locally sourced food — many fruits, vegetables, and fish products come from the university's growing facilities.
Columbia, South Carolina
At South Carolina's Columbia College, all of the school's resident meal plans and dining facilities provide vegan options. The food preparation staff accommodates diners with allergies and dietary restrictions by providing additional options.
Columbia College scored an A+ and earned Dean's List recognition on PETA's Vegan Report Card. Additionally, the Rare Variety Cafe — located near campus — offers an extensive selection of vegan and vegetarian meals. The cafe often partners with the college to harvest vegetables from the school's community garden.
Marymount Manhattan College
New York, New York
Receiving an A+ grade and making the Dean's List on PETA's Vegan Report Card, Marymount Manhattan College offers students and visitors a vegan option at every dining facility on campus. Students can also visit many off-campus alternatives, including the nearby Candle Cafe.
On-campus dining halls source produce and goods from local suppliers to minimize the college's carbon footprint and support New York growers. MMC also oversees the Royal Waste recycling program. Additionally, the Strategic Plan Implementation Network and Go Green Coalition foster new sustainability ideas on campus and in the surrounding community.
Salve Regina University
Newport, Rhode Island
Salve Regina University provides students with several vegetarian and vegan options during every meal at all on-campus eateries. According to PETA's Vegan Report Card, the university also labels vegan offerings and participates in Meatless Mondays.
Salve Regina's dining specialists help vegetarian and vegan students design meal plans that meet their nutrition needs. Additionally, the university has implemented sustainability measures in most facilities to prevent waste, reduce environmental impact, and conserve water and energy. The university's campus gardens help cut back on the herbs and produce needed from outside suppliers.
Thomas College offers some of the best college dining halls for vegans and vegetarians. The college's meal planners and preparation staff work hard to accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions. All campus eateries feature at least one all-vegan station and continue to add new items to meet the demands of the students, according to PETA's Vegan Report Card.
Thomas uses local suppliers for fresh produce and sources organic tofu and soymilk from local soybeaneries. The school clearly marks vegetarian and vegan meals and separates them from animal byproducts. Additionally, the campus features extensive energy saving measures, student-run environmental clubs, and waste reduction systems.
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Pembroke, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke earned an A+ on PETA's Vegan Report Card and made its Dean's List. UNCP operates six major dining facilities, each of which offers a vegan meal option at all times.
The university accommodates many dietary restrictions and takes requests from diners with rare allergies and special nutritional needs. UNCP has introduced waste management programs, campus dining initiatives, and campus-based campaigns to reduce the school's environmental impact, such as by purchasing more local and whole foods.
Western State Colorado University
Offering some of the best college dining halls for vegans, Western Colorado University received the highest possible grade on PETA's Vegan Report Card, notching an A+. The university operates three major dining centers, each of which feature vegan options at all meals.
Western holds a silver STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The university partners with Sodexo to create zero-waste food events that promote locally sourced produce and the sustainable farming movement. Western's campus garden and greenhouse provide the university with organic fruits and vegetables and teach students and community members about sustainability and healthy living.
Vegan and vegetarian students at Albion College enjoy access to various dining facilities that offer meals for vegans and vegetarians. The school participates in Meatless Mondays, and students can get food from an all-vegan station. Albion received an A+ rating on PETA's Vegan Report Card, earning a place on its Dean's List.
Most of Albion's food comes from local suppliers and growers. The college's farm provides dining facilities with fresh produce. Albion has also implemented a sustainability initiative that reduces the college's collective environmental impact and footprint.
Mt. Vernon, Iowa
At Cornell College — located in Mt. Vernon, Iowa — students can eat meals that accommodate special dietary restrictions and preferences at every dining facility on campus. The school uses the Bon Appétit dining service, which offers vegetarian, vegan, fresh, and locally sourced meals made from scratch.
On PETA's Vegan Report Card, Cornell received an A+ rating and earned a spot on the Dean's List. The college's dining services emphasize sustainability by buying local food when possible and reducing waste and recycling. Additionally, Cornell's dieticians can help students follow a meal plan that accommodates their needs and improves access to the foods they want.
Ohio Dominican University
At Ohio Dominican University, students with all types of dietary restrictions can access healthy meals. The university provides a vegan entree option during each meal at every dining facility on campus. PETA's Vegan Report Card awarded ODU an A+ rating and Dean's List recognition.
At ODU, Stav's Diner and the Bexley Coffee Shop provide many vegetarian and vegan meals for students. ODU also emphasizes sustainable practices through waste reduction programs, trayless meals, reusable containers, and food-sourcing from local growers and suppliers. Additionally, the university relies on a sustainability council to continually improve and update these practices.
University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Making the Dean's List with an A+ grade on PETA's Vegan Report Card, the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire offers vegetarian and vegan entrees at each of its dining facilities. Vegan meals and desserts are clearly labeled, helping students find foods that meet their dietary restrictions. The school also endeavors to improve student health by promoting vegan options.
UWEC meets high sustainability standards by running strict composting, recycling, and waste management programs. Additionally, the school's dining services buy locally sourced produce whenever possible.
What Percentage of College Students Are Vegan?
According to a 2018 College Pulse study, 14% of college students follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Compared to the national average of 4%, college learners appear much more committed to reducing meat consumption, with most citing environmental concerns, animal rights, health, and home environment as reasons for the diet.
Within that 14%, democratic women represent the largest group of vegans or vegetarians by far. While only 4% of republican learners do not eat meat, 21% of democrat students have adopted veganism or vegetarianism. Furthermore, only 9% of college men follow a meatless diet, compared to 17% of college women.
How Do College Dining Halls Promote Student Health?
The best college dining halls for vegans and vegetarians provide multiple healthy options for all diners and diets. Colleges facilitate healthy eating by highlighting the nutritional content of each meal and planning balanced meals. Some schools may also eliminate meat altogether during one day of the week.
The best college dining halls also focus on increasing sustainability and decreasing waste. They may purchase produce from local growers and suppliers or establish their own gardens and growhouses. Furthermore, these schools may feature trayless meals, use reusable or recyclable dining materials, and eliminate single-use plastics.
Are College Meal Plans Worth It for Vegans?
College meal plans can provide students with peace of mind while they attend school, allowing them to pay ahead of time for daily meals at most on-campus eateries. While these plans typically cost more than buying and preparing food separately, they can make life easier for busy students, who can eat without needing to cook food every meal.
Since these meal plans only offer food from an approved list of eateries and suppliers, vegans and vegetarians should pay close attention to the selection of meatless meals and restaurants. While the best college dining halls for vegans and vegetarians offer ample variety, students at schools with limited choices may be better off purchasing their own food.
Is It Hard to Be Vegan in College?
Being vegan or vegetarian in college does not have to be difficult. According to the Vegan Society, humans can get most of their nutritional needs — including proteins and vitamins — from a simple diet that includes beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu, along with fruits and vegetables. To take in B12 vitamins, diners should take supplements or seek out fortified foods.
Students with access to the best college dining halls for vegans and vegetarians often have an easier time maintaining this diet. Learners with more limited choices may find the lifestyle more challenging if they need to cook more meals than the average student.
How Do I Budget On a Vegan Diet?
As long as students have access to the right eateries and grocery stores, vegan diets should not be any more expensive than a meat-containing diet. As veganism, vegetarianism, and plant-forward diets have increased in popularity, more recipes, meal guides, and nutritional plans have become available.
To save money, shoppers may want to plan meals ahead of time and try to combine and share ingredients among various meals. These measures can cut back on waste and allow for more bulk shopping and money saving. Try to buy local in-season fruits and vegetables for additional savings.
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