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? It’s time for a campus meal that doesn’t 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 Ryerson’s 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 Foodshare’s 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). It’s 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 York’s Maloca Community Garden. Similar to U of T, York’s 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 Caf’s Healthy Kitchen or student-owned Lunik Co-op Café 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 Rye’s 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. It’s also promising to soon serve up nothing but Ocean Wise-certified seafood (humane chicken is coming down the pipe by 2024). They’ve 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 joint’s upscale).


Samuel Engelking

The Green Beet cafe at the University of Toronto


Ontario’s oldest publicly funded college is surprisingly strict about what they consider local (only food from within 100K radius counts), but they’re 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 won’t likely be fully cage-free until 2025. A humane meat standard kicks in around then, too. Unfortunately, these guys don’t compost food waste like most other schools (except for at the Local Café). But they have started a small veggie garden and earmarked $25,000 for community gardens.

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


Sorry, OCADers, since the university doesn’t have any cafeterias, dining halls or food courts of its own to speak of, it doesn’t 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 OCADU’s 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 Karine’s 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. There’s a humane meat standard coming around then, too.

Bonus: Seneca offers a Sustainable Local Food certificate program.


George Brown hasn’t 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 Foodshare’s 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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