A glass-walled dining hall that converts to a concert venue; a restaurant designed to serve and train special needs students; lush organic gardens; cafés touting pour-over coffees; paleo-diet-friendly brownies and cardamom-infused blueberry tarts; celebrity chef demos; industry-leading sustainability programs; food trucks; bulk organic and local food sales; smartphone apps and social media — all of this and more is found today in the world of college and university dining.

Those who operate here, perhaps more than any other segment of the industry, totally get the fact that satisfying the needs and wants of students requires innovation. After all, the young people that the rest of the industry so desperately wants to attract are in their facilities multiple times a day, every day, at least nine months of the year. And more than any other generation in the past, those young people are coming to campus with the notion that food truly matters — nutritionally, culturally, socially and environmentally.

Here, we take a look at moves being made by some schools around the country, from large public institutions to small, private
colleges, to meet the challenge.