The Daily Meal, an online culinary news site, examined dining programs at every four-year university in the nation (over 2,000). The large-scale project spanned the majority of the summer months. The study included the mess halls of small, private liberal arts colleges to big-time university campuses. UC Davis made the cut, ranking No. 18 on the Daily Meal’s 52 Best Colleges for Food in America.
“We used several sources to compile our list. We reviewed the National Association of College and University Food Service Awards (NACUFS) and we looked at lists like the Princeton Review. We also read news stories about college dining, and explored the dining services websites. In addition, we interviewed chefs, dining staff and food management companies to get an understanding of what food is being served and where it comes from,” said The Daily Meal editor Nina Fomufod.
The focus of the study remained on the aggregate: the school’s dining program as a whole versus the individual food items provided. A variety of factors were taken into consideration when determining which colleges made the cut, with many schools receiving a failing grade for the following: unsanitary conditions or health code violations, lack of variety and missing service.
For the schools that did make the cut, they were graded on a five-point scale on the following factors: healthy food, events, local, sustainable, accessibility and service and the X factor. Fomufod noted that the deciding factor rested on the food itself, dining services creativity and students’ general opinions of their respective school’s dining experience.
“Our goal was to present well-rounded programs, and UC Davis made the list because we felt it fit that description. We wanted to highlight schools that not only served quality food, but also hosted events. It was equally important to us that local and sustainable food was used on campus — these factors are why UC Davis made the list,” Fomufod said.
Additionally, UC Davis was recently ranked as the nation’s “Coolest School” by the Sierra Club’s official publication for its continued efforts in sustainability and climate change prevention and education; the University’s dining services are no exception in maintaining a clean, “green” image.
“From purchasing local food items, to composting, water and energy conservation, to purchasing produce from our Student Farm and Russell Ranch right here on campus, our commitment is to sustainability and all that encompasses the program. We also have educational programs for the students on food waste reduction,” said Brenan Connolly, general manager of Resident Dining.
Among the UC Davis dining commons’ food choices include honey-nut pancakes, dosas with sambar and chutney, and falafel lentil cakes, all unique takes on the standard college dining experience.
“Our commitment [is] to the students and University to bring them a quality dining program. It is all about the student experience. We strive to make sure our students have a great dining experience all day long, no matter what dining room or retail or catering operation they are dining in,” Connolly said.
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