Cafeteria food has always gotten a bad rap. It’s only in recent years that schools across the country have started to revamp their menus to include more nutritious and delicious offerings.

However, some colleges and universities have done even better. They have food service managers who go above and beyond to provide a campus with the best eats imaginable. Here are 20 such managers doing great work at universities across the country.

Kent Dahlquist at Kutztown University
Students often pull all-nighters, writing papers at the last minute or cramming for exams (and, yes, sometimes just hanging out with friends). They need food to fuel those long nights, and not just candy bars and energy drinks.

Kent Dahlquist, Kutztown University’s director of housing and dining services, recognizes that issue. That’s why the school’s south dining hall on the first floor serves up a variety of eats 24/7 (with the exception of major holidays).

Carla Iansiti at Michigan State University
What kind of college campus has its own team of professional sous chefs on hand? Michigan State University does. One of its long-term chefs, Joe Murphy, started working there in 1995 and is a big fan of serving smoked meats and seafood.

Not only is the food here delicious then, but Residential and Hospitality Services sustainability leader Carla Iansiti makes sure the campus is green, too. The school is big on cutting back on water and energy use and recycling packaging and food waste.

Judy Gipper at Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University dining director Judy Gipper gives her students plenty of food options. They’re always encouraged to visit any of the campuses’ four dining centers for a buffet-style meal. No time because of a big test? Get the food to go with the college’s carryout services.

Joe Regenstein at Cornell University
Dietary restrictions are common these days. Whether it’s food allergies, vegetarianism or veganism or the need for gluten-free or kosher food, universities must be mindful with their menus. Cornell University professor emeritus of food science Joe Regenstein, for example, has started an initiative to ensure all the food served at the Stocking Hall’s Dairy Bar is kosher.

Shawn LaPean at University of California, Berkeley
With gluten-free, healthy, sustainable food, the University of California, Berkeley is a great choice for students. Its dining director Shawn LaPean made the FoodService Director’s 20 Most Influential list in 2012 (along with Michelle Obama). From brunch through dinner and everything in between, the menu at any of the campus’ four dining locations is filled with omelets, salads, oatmeal, vegan noodles, bacon and more.

Smitha Haneef at Princeton University
As one of the most renowned schools in the country, of course Princeton University feeds its students well. Besides its dedication to sustainable, nutritious eating, students can prepare some of their favorite dining hall meals themselves back in their dorms. The Princeton Teaching Kitchen often shares delicious and healthy recipes, like an autumn apple salad or kale quinoa stuffed delicata squash.

Kelvin Harris at Georgia State University
There are always plenty of spots to eat on the Georgia State University campus, including Ray’s New York Pizza, Panther’s Club and Centennial Cafe. Dining hall manager Kelvin Harris also ensures students are treated to themed meals each week. For example, in November, they did an international foods week where students got to sample Nigerian, German and Brazilian cuisine.

Anthony Delligatti at Liberty University
How many colleges can say they have a food truck on campus? Liberty University certainly can. District manager Anthony Delligatti and the rest of his Sodexo team made the Cravings food truck a reality. It’s no wonder this university has received a handful of awards for its food service and quality.

Ken Toong at University of Massachusetts Amherst
With professional chefs whipping up delectable meals, executive director of auxiliary enterprises Ken Toong has created a fantastic dining environment for students at UMass. The catering hall is the perfect place to bring parents for a classy meal. Craving comfort food? There’s an on-campus bakery with freshly baked breads, pastries, cookies and cakes.

Paula Amols at Murray State University
The Freshman 15 is unfortunately something college students should be wary of. With so many food options at their disposal, students may not always make the best dietary decisions.

Food director Paula Amols’ healthy eating menu at Murray State University can help change that. Not only can students see the calories, fat, carbs and sugar content of each food item, but they can also learn more about what constitutes a nutritious diet through information provided by the school.

Zia Ahmed at Ohio State University
Another school that gives students the opportunity to learn more about healthy eating is Ohio State University. Its senior director of dining services Zia Ahmed already has the NetNutrition plan in place at most eateries on campus so students can read the nutritional facts and make decisions accordingly.

Still need help? No problem. The college’s dietitian Gina Forster is around towards the end of each month to discuss diet goals, food allergens, nutritious eating and more.

Ron De Santis at Yale University
At Yale University, dining is done differently. “It’s about building a culture which has food that’s flavorful, fresh and that is professionally prepared and delivered,” Ron De Santis, the school’s director of culinary excellence and quality assurance, explains.

The university has several programs in place at these eateries that promote better eating habits, including the Spa Water Program (which cuts back on sugar with fruity spa water), the Salt Reduction Initiative and the Plant-Based Protein Program (which focuses on vegetarian and vegan food).

Melissa Zelazny at The University of Vermont
When off-campus students need lunch, dinner or other meals, they can sign up for a meal plan at The University of Vermont, giving them a choice of 15 dining locations. This is a good idea from resident district manager Melissa Zelazny and her team to unite (and feed) the student body.

Barbara Sieger at Vanderbilt University
Students are more tech savvy today than ever before. In response to that, Vanderbilt University hospitality staff, including assistant director of catering and events Barbara Sieger, created an app that makes deciding what to eat a little easier. Their free Android and iOS app includes menus for the day for all restaurants at the school.

Kerry Paterson at Oregon State University
Grocery shopping is a necessity, but for off-campus students who don’t live near a store or those on campus students who cook, it can be a real pain to get groceries. Food director Kerry Paterson at Oregon State University has made life easier for those students with grocery markets right on the school grounds.

These include The Main Squeeze (which has a smoothie and juice bar), Every Bean’s a Good Bean (with its own pastries and coffee) and Cascadia Market (with fresh dairy, meat and produce).

Payson Krell at Boston University
Much like at Yale University, Boston University’s dining staff is a large team that manages every restaurant on campus. Payson Krell oversees catering, a service the campus offers.

The school also has its own test kitchen, where chefs get creative and try out new dishes for students. In the mood for dessert? The university’s bakery is led by executive pastry chef Tim Fonseca.

Gwendolyn Duncan at Southeast Missouri State University
Towers Café at Southeast Missouri State University recently received a major overhaul. Gwendolyn Duncan, the coordinator of administrative operations for residence life, pushed for the effort with the rest of the school’s dining staff.
Now students can dive into buffet-style meals, including rotating food bars, bakery items, salad bars, hot sandwiches and gluten-free and vegan eats.

Michael White at University of Connecticut
Hungry? Students can take their pick when eating at UConn. Food director Michael White has made sure students have nearly endless dining options. There’s a gluten-free bakery, an ice cream truck, food trucks and a café called The Beanery. No matter what a student craves, it’s likely somewhere on campus.

Randy Lait at NC State University
Older universities sometimes must decide what to do with buildings on campus that have fallen into disuse. Should these be torn down or refurbished? Senior director of hospitality services Randy Lait at NC State University was part of the initiative to fix up the Wolves’ Den Café.

The remodeled eatery, appropriately found at the College of Veterinary Medicine, offers Asian dishes like spring rolls, Mexican food including quesadillas and burritos as well as made-to-order pasta dishes.

Richard Roldan at Kent State University
While many college campuses across the country have made the effort to go gluten-free, how many of them are certified by the Gluten-Free Food Service through the Gluten Intolerance Group? Kent State University is, in part due to the hard work by director of university dining services Richard Roldan.

Students who visit Prentice Hall can be assured that no matter what they choose on the vast menu, it doesn’t have any gluten in it. Much of the food served here is also vegan.

Images by:
Ali Inay, Brian Chan, Olia Gozha, Niklas Rhose