Where to find healthy and local food options at eight Toronto colleges and universities

Tired of stuffing street dogs and candy bars down your throat between classes? Its time for a campus meal that.


Tired of stuffing street dogs and candy bars down your throat between classes? Its time for a campus meal that doesnt leave you feeling bloated with planetary guilt. So how do college cafeterias stack up, sustainability-wise?

U of T was definitely a keener in the local food movement, serving up local Harmony organic milk as early as 2005 and becoming the first university to be Local Food Plus Certified back in 2006. With at least 60 per cent of its food locally grown, raised or processed the school is still top of the class. Campus gardens may not churn out as much fresh produce as Ryersons do, but there are half a dozen veggie plots and apiaries on campus. Like York, U of T offers a 10 per cent discount for plant-based meals on Veggie Mondays, is bottled water-free and has an Eco Tray program for reusable food containers, with 25 cents off for lug-a-muggers. Students can also get Foodshares Good Food Box of cheap fresh local produce on campus.

Greenest place to eat: Harvest Noon or The Green Beet.

This longtime activist hotbed makes sure all of its eggs are cage-free, much of its seafood is Marine Stewardship certified and all non-chain coffee is fair trade (naturally, the school even has its own fair trade coffee brand). Its also duh bottled water-free and about a quarter of all food served up is now Ontario sourced. Students that want to get their hands dirty growing their own veggies can join Yorks Maloca Community Garden. Similar to U of T, Yorks got a 10 per cent discount for Vegan Mondays, a cool Ecotakeout program with reusable containers, Good Food produce boxes and you get a quarter back for reusable mugs.

Greenest place to eat: the Stong College Cafs Healthy Kitchen or student-owned Lunik Co-op Cafe at the Glendon Campus.

Another locavore all-star. This past year, a whopping 50 per cent of the food dished out on campus came from local, sustainable sources. The most local of all? The 10,000 pounds of produce grown on Ryes own rooftop farm and shared with their cafs and their Gould Street Farmers Market. Tuna salad lovers, rejoice: 99 per cent of their seafood is now certified sustainable. As with York and pretty much every other campus using Aramark or Compass caterers, all their chicken should be more humane by 2024. In the meantime, Ryerson is bottled water-free, has ditched styrofoam for compostable packaging and over half the coffee served on campus is certified fair trade (though a reusable mug will land you just 10 cents off). Students can score local Good Food produce boxes on campus, too.

Greenest place to eat: Ryerson Farmers Market.

This west-end college has backed away from its target of sourcing 30 per cent local food, but it is now part of a Greenbelt Fund-backed pilot project working to put more Ontario farm-fresh goods on the menus of 24 colleges in early 2018. No farmers market here, but Humber Arboretum garden greens go to teaching culinary management students and on the dinner menu at the student-run Humber Room. The college gets a thumbs-up for offering cage-free eggs and going styrofoam-free. Its also promising to soon serve up nothing but Ocean Wise-certified seafood (humane chicken is coming down the pipe by 2024). Theyve got a couple of apiaries, too, and students can actually score a certificate in sustainable urban beekeeping or sign up for cool courses on stuff like wild edibles.

Greenest place to eat: The Humber Room (note: this joints upscale).

Ontarios oldest publicly funded college is surprisingly strict about what they consider local (only food from within 100K radius counts), but theyre already at 10 to 15 per cent local and plan to reach 30 per cent this coming year. Their food service provider, Aramark, has started cooking up Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish options but its eggs wont likely be fully cage-free until 2025. A humane meat standard kicks in around then, too. Unfortunately, these guys dont compost food waste like most other schools (except for at the Local Cafe). But they have started a small veggie garden and earmarked $25,000 for community gardens.

Greenest place to eat: The Local Cafe and Restaurant at Progress Campus.

Sorry, OCADers, since the university doesnt have any cafeterias, dining halls or food courts of its own to speak of, it doesnt have the same kind of food policies other schools do. On the bright side, the student union does cook up hot vegan lunches every Thursday for the low price of a $3 suggested minimum donation. Or just donate a non-perishable food item. Either way, your donation will help stock OCADUs Student Pantry food bank. And plant lovers should definitely join GrOCAD to dig into their community gardens, plant sales and Salad Day.

Greenest place to eat: Union Coffee or Karines in Village by the Grange.

These guys have, like, 300 campuses (okay, 10), but still manage to get 12 per cent of all their ingredients grown in Ontario and 50 per cent of the food served in campus cafs is locally processed. Like Centennial, which uses the same food service provider, you should spot Marine Stewardship Council-certified seafood in cafs, as well as some organic and fair trade ingredients, but cage-free eggs may not be fully rolled out until 2025. Theres a humane meat standard coming around then, too.

Bonus: Seneca offers a Sustainable Local Food certificate program.

George Brown hasnt publicly proclaimed commitments to stuff like cage-free eggs or buying 25 per cent local ingredients the way, say, York has. But the peeps who cater their cafs, Compass Group Canada, were the first to partner with Mercy for Animals and have pledged to use 100 per cent slower-growing, healthier chickens by 2024. Their eggs should all be cage-free by then, too. Craving fresh local veg for cheap? Stop by Foodshares Good Food Market at the St. James campus Thursdays. Learn how to cook with vegetarian and vegan culinary classes (leftovers get donated to the student food bank).

Greenest place to eat: Live Organic Food Bar, near the Casa Loma campus.

ecoholic@nowtoronto.com | @ecoholicnation

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