After counting tens of thousands of student votes and holding an independent assessment of the quality and quantity of vegan dining options available, this year's winners of peta2's Most Vegan-Friendly Colleges contest have finally been announced!
Congrats to all the winning schools. Your students thank you and, if they could, so would the animals whose lives will be spared as the result of your serving delicious vegan cuisine in your food halls!
The number of vegetarian students has risen by 50 percent since 2005, and the number of vegan students has more than doubled in the same time period. There's never been a better time to leave meat off your plate for good.
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Winners in the Large U.S. Schools Category
1. University of California—Santa Cruz
After years of bouncing from one place to another on our list, UCSC has finally claimed the top spot as the national leader in cruelty-free dining. This radically progressive school's implementation of the popular Meatless Monday program—in which a different dining hall goes completely vegetarian each week—has been a model for other schools across the country. Dishes such as stuffed portobello ratatouille, vegan Mexican tofu benedicts, vegan taquitos, and sweet-and-sour seitan get big applause from students. Throw in a vibrant activist community led by the pro-vegan group Banana Slugs for Animals, and it's easy to see why left-leaning students flock west.
2. University of Florida
Establishing itself as a pioneer in environmental studies and management over the past decade, the University of Florida (UF) puts a high priority on sustainability, which is no easy task at a school the size of a small city. With the Office of Sustainability's pledge to achieve zero-waste status by 2015, UF sees the devastating ecological impact of the meat industry as part of the problem. It led the school to embrace Meatless Mondays last year as a means of encouraging students to take control of their carbon footprints. The student event VegFest also helps foster an atmosphere of animal-free eating, and dishes such as tempeh salad with espresso-chili vinaigrette, grilled tofu three ways over wild rice, and vegan chicken tacos make the transition to a plant-based diet an easy and delicious option for campus residents.
3. University of California—Irvine
Proudly representing "the OC" on this year's list, the University of California—Irvine (UCI) has come and gone on our list for years. But 2011 has been a good year for UCI, thanks in part to the efforts of Irvine Students Against Animal Cruelty (ISAAC), which has been pushing hard for the school to keep up with other University of California campuses when it comes to healthy and sustainable vegan foods. With a hearty emphasis on vegan versions of meat-based dishes, options such as vegan sweet-and-sour meatballs, chicken tacos, pad Thai, and chicken marsala are menu standouts. The school is also implementing a Meatless Monday program in order to help encourage students to choose healthier dining alternatives.
4. Ohio University
If you listen to outsiders, Ohio University (OU) may be primarily known for its history of "haunted" facilities and folklorish ghost sightings. Ask a student, though, and one becomes suspicious that these rumors may have been started to successfully contain OU's best-kept secret—its award-winning vegan cuisine. Vegan ravioli, black-bean stuffed peppers, Tofurky sandwiches, vegan orange chicken and broccoli, and vegan cheesecake are a few samples of the extensive range of cruelty-free food options available.
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5. University of California—Los Angeles
Last year's big winner, the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA) has made vegan food a top priority for the better part of the past decade, consistently keeping up with student expectations as more and more residents embrace a plant-based diet. With tasty options such as barbecue "beef," Southwest veggie chicken wraps, and vegan cheese quesadillas, vegetarianism is so deeply engrained in the Bruin spirit that many students reportedly choose vegetarian options without even knowing it. So while Southern California is known for its fad diets and weight-loss culture, UCLA students know that the key to living life to the fullest is choosing real food—and that animals don't count as such.
6. Cornell University
One of the many Ivy League universities to make this year's list, Cornell has a long-established reputation as a school for serious scholars. Located in the picturesque city of Ithaca, New York, Cornellians rely on healthy doses of vegan cuisine to help fuel their ample brainpower. Thankfully, the school has responded by offering a wide range of cruelty-free options, including sweet potato-cashew patties, seitan pepper steak, corn-crusted tofu with jalapeño pico salsa, and vegan chocolate cake. As if that weren't enough, toss in One World Café—Cornell's on-campus café devoted entirely to vegetarian and vegan food!
7.University of Connecticut
Consistently ranked as the top public university in New England, schools across the region tremble at the mention of the University of Connecticut—not only for its legendary basketball teams but also for its cutting-edge take on animal-free foods. Vegan ravioli with veggies, grilled tofu with cranberry-apricot chutney, African peanut stew, and tofu vindaloo are just a few of the many menu highlights available at UConn.
8. University of Illinois
Boasting vegan options at every meal in every dining hall, the University of Illinois knows that vegan food is big business in 2011. A clearly labeled "vegan corner" in each dining location helps students stock up on vegan cheese, soy meat, and other tasty treats, while the chefs whip up flavorful recipes like vegan Caprese sandwiches (with soy cheese), pumpkin lasagne, spring rolls, and more vegan versions of meat-based Asian dishes than you can shake a stick at. Even the school's convocation ceremony had vegan sloppy Joes on the menu—which shows just how engrained animal-free foods are in the student culture.
9. University of California—Berkeley
Perhaps the least surprising university on our top 10 list, Berkeley has a reputation for vegan-friendliness that is decades in the making. In a time when new vegan products are coming on the market every day, even an established national leader like Cal knows that it has to keep up with trends. Popular items like tofu scramble, vegan chicken nuggets, and vegan pizza are just a few of the literally hundreds of vegan options available at this veggie-powered school.
10. University of Colorado—Boulder
Returning to our list for the second year in a row, the University of Colorado—Boulder is located in the progressive bastion of Boulder, which has long been a go-to spot for outdoorsy vegetarians. The university itself is no slouch, making sustainability a campuswide priority. Both the school's sports stadium and student government boast "zero waste" policies (a first in the nation on both counts), so the dining services department understands the significance of promoting eco-conscious cuisine—which means lots of vegan food. Clearly labeled vegan options, such as tofu rancheros, barbecue tofu with Cuban beans, seitan tacos, and vegan apple pie, are just a few of the many choices possessing a light footprint but big flavor.
University of North Texas
A newcomer to our list—and to the national vegan dining stage—the University of North Texas (UNT) shook up the Texas establishment with its addition of the nation's first all-vegan cafeteria at a large university (gaining national media attention in the process, as well as a peta2 Compassionate Campus Award). The school's dining services staff report that they have since received calls from across the country as other schools look to mirror the UNT example. UNT has long bubbled under the surface—now, thanks to animal-free dishes such as tofu loaves, Aztecan quinoa salad, garden pesto veggie wraps, and vegan peach cobbler, the school is finally getting the praise it deserves.
University of Pennsylvania
Penn has really taken off over the past several years, gaining a reputation as a petri dish to test cutting-edge vegan foods that will eventually find their way to off-campus diners. Vegan Daiya cheese pizzas (or pepper jack "cheesies"), cranberry scones, Indian dishes, and carob-chip banana squares are just some of the hundreds of vegan foods available that would make Benjamin Franklin—a vegetarian—proud of his school.
Winners in the Small U.S. Schools Category
1. Northwestern University
Last year's top-ranked small U.S. school, Northwestern University is back on top in 2011. The dining services department reports that between 35 and 55 percent of students select a vegetarian or vegan entrée every day, and with options such as tofu French toast, country-fried seitan steak with vegan mashed potatoes, and vegan curried tofu with jasmine rice, it's easy to see why. Throw in a new Meatless Monday program, and you can see how this school's motivated and ambitious student population has enough energy to dance for 30 hours straight.
2. Brandeis University
With a vibrant streak of progressive activism dating back several decades, Brandeis students are known for setting the bar high and waging high-profile campaigns when their demands aren't met. Thankfully for the campus chefs, vegan food is one area where students have nothing but kind words. With popular dining choices such as in-house vegan brownies, vegan spaghetti and meatballs, barbecue veggie riblets, and vegan beef tacos, it's easy to see where students get their energy.
3. Georgetown University
After being absent from last year's list, Georgetown has returned in 2011, thanks in part to visually appealing entrées such as seitan gyros with soy yogurt, vegan beef stir-fries, vegan sloppy Joes, and vegan barbecue riblets. Given that Georgetown is a school known for producing presidents, high-scoring athletes, Supreme Court justices, and other influential figures, the vegan-friendly menu at this historic campus gives us hope for the future.
4. Brown University
Brown has been deemed number one for possessing "America's Happiest College Students," and a quick glance at the menu will explain why that is. Hearty and creative vegan dishes such as Jamaican jerk tempeh and vegan nuggets with sesame seeds are standout options. This year, the school unveiled a range of new vegan baked goods, including vegan pumpkin cheesecake and brownies.
5. Bennington College
A name on virtually every list of progressive and eco-friendly campuses, Bennington is a beacon of vegan-powered hope from deep in the heart of "dairy country." Founded on donated farmland, the school's main building was a renovated barn (and maintains the name "The Barn" to this day). Don't let the school's pastoral atmosphere fool you—this is a school that is up-to-date, at least in the culinary sense. The diverse menu of hundreds of cruelty-free options includes Indonesian tofu and peanut salad wraps, Cajun tofu with Creole sauce, multigrain vegan nuggets with barbecue sauce, tofu stroganoff, and vegan stuffed shells with marinara sauce.
6. University of Rochester
A new addition to our list for 2011, the University of Rochester is just now receiving national praise. A school historically tied to vegetarian Susan B. Anthony, Rochester has made significant strides as of late, thanks to delicious dishes such as kung pao tofu, vegan cheese quesadillas, and tofu ravioli with wild-mushroom pesto. The administrators also work closely with campus organizations like the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth (SAVVY) to keep up with food trends.
7. University of Puget Sound
A regular on our list for several years now, the University of Puget Sound is in many ways the standard that other schools look to for serving vegan cuisine. True to the school's "Vegans Around the World" theme, inventive dishes such as vegan cutlets, spicy sweet potato-bean burritos, Field Roast deli slices, and tofu-spinach breakfast burritos serve as perfect complements to the students' ever-present organic, fair-trade coffee.
8. Bradley University
Despite not having the name recognition of bigger regional institutions like the University of Illinois, Bradley gives big schools a run for their money when it comes to vegan dining options. Making a return visit to our list, residents of this school of just over 6,000 students enjoy dishes traditionally reserved for the luckiest of urban dwellers, including tofu marsala, portobello Napoleon with soy cheese, and spicy tofu scramble.
9. Wesleyan University
One of the most selective universities in the U.S., Wesleyan is no stranger to our list, having been a nominee for several years in a row and having won the top spot two years ago. With a student-run organic vegetable farm funded by the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and delicious vegan entrées such as barbecue seitan, tofu spinach lasagne, and pasta with roasted cauliflower and peppers with walnut pesto on constant rotation, it's easy to see why people are clamoring like crazy to get into Wes.
10. American University
A previous winner on our list, American University is a beacon of hope emanating from the nation's capital again this year. Featuring hearty and healthy options such as vegan zucchini quinoa lasagna, picadillo stuffed peppers, and vegan cherry pie, students never have to travel far to get a delicious meal on the go.
Thanks to progressive policies speaking out against racism, sexism, and homophobia, Oberlin is the place where the country looks to see what the next social trend to sweep the country will be—and that's good news for vegans everywhere. With daily offerings such as vegan black-bean burgers, vegan eggless salad, and mushroom, pea, and asparagus risotto, a visit to Oberlin is like jumping 20 years into the future to a world where everybody is vegetarian and loving it.
Surrounded by the dense fir and hemlock trees of Saint Edward State Park, Bastyr has become a nationally recognized name, thanks in part to its emphasis on the study of natural medicine and its belief in the healing powers of plant-based foods. Healthful treats such as vegan banana bread, black bean soup, coconut tofu curry, and vegan chocolate cake give students the strength to heal others while leading by example.
Rhode Island School of Design
As the preeminent fine arts school in the nation, the Rhode Island School of Design understands that visionary minds need fuel. And since meat is a leading contributor to obesity, strokes, and even impotence, having healthy vegan options available is key to keeping the creative juices flowing. That's why vegetarian choices are widely available on campus and at the campus's food truck—dubbed "Rosie"—where students can grab dishes such as seitan stew with quinoa and millet salad, sesame tofu with tomato compote, and Appaloosa bean salad with lime-chipotle vinaigrette.