Skip Navigation

DefaultVeg at Universities

For the next generation of college graduates, plant-based dining will be the norm. Together we can keep campus—and the planet—cool. Join in when you sign up to receive our Advocacy Toolkit!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Universities worldwide welcome DefaultVeg

The college years—a time for innovation, experimentation, and imagination. On-campus living presents a special opportunity to reimagine systems and pilot novel ideas. And one of the most powerful solutions colleges have embraced is welcoming DefaultVeg in dining halls, coffee shops, and all the other ways food is served on campus.

Working with foodservice providers, students can change food procurement to reflect their values, promoting sustainable, inclusive, and plant-focused eating habits on campuses and beyond.

All-you-care-to-eat settings provide an especially ripe opportunity for DefaultVeg–and dramatic potential impact.

Our research suggests that DefaultVeg more than doubles the amount of plant-based food eaten. Across three different universities, we found that while only 26.9% of dishes served were plant-based on control days (meat default), on DefaultVeg days, 57.6% of dishes were.

DefaultVeg works for all the ways food is served on campus

The promise of DefaultVeg on college campuses extends beyond dining halls, too. Campus coffee shops can use oatmilk by default as the inclusive and sustainable choice. Faculty can make their department events DefaultVeg, and student groups can host DefaultVeg events, too.

What Universities are already doing this?

  • In 2022 at At Northwestern University, the school’s student government passed acting legislation that includes a 70% plant-based requirement, and relies on proven behavioral nudges such as opting into animal-based products at catered gatherings and presenting animal-based products last at buffet-style events.
  • New York University has also welcomed DefaultVeg with open arms, adopting plant-based defaults in its student government and in the Office of the Provost. That’s right, it’s not just students but also administrators who recognize the transformative potential of plant-based defaults. NYU’s Office of Sustainability also went DefaultVeg, curbing the school’s emissions through plant power, following in the footsteps of Harvard’s office of sustainability.
  • Meanwhile on Pacific Time, Western Washington University’s College of the Environment has gone DefaultVeg for the planet
  • University of San Diego, Pitzer College, and Pomona College both opted to focus on coffee, making lattes and cappuccinos with oatmilk by default, thanks to the work of student fellows with New Roots Institute. Cornell University also eliminated its dairy default, along with the upcharge on plantmilk, across campus.

In addition to progress led by student ambassadors, nearly 400 schools have begun to incorporate plant-based nudges in their dining halls as the result of a collaboration between DefaultVeg and Sodexo, one of the largest university foodservice providers.

Learn more about who is implementing DefaultVeg and its impact →

The plant-forward food wave doesn’t stop at U.S. borders

Oxford, Copenhagen, and the University of Victoria have all embraced plant-based defaults in one way or another, as it should be: movements are built in community, and we all share the same planet. With just a few simple changes to our cafeterias and dinner plates, we can make a sizable dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Transforming our food system is a cooperative effort, but luckily, plant-based food includes—and benefits—everyone.

How can students get involved?

The Better Food Foundation’s DefaultVeg Student Ambassador Program provides students with a structured approach to advocating for plant-based defaults on campus. Ambassadors can expect to improve their research, communication, advocacy, negotiation, project management, and leadership skills throughout the program, all while pushing for a more sustainable food system.

Apply today

Latest Universities News

See All News

Mar 24, 2024

Hundreds of Universities Are Moving Toward a Plant-Based Norm

Sodexo has massively expanded plant-based dining at its nearly 400 universities following its trial of DefaultVeg menus.


Nov 3, 2023

Students Help Unis Live Their Missions By Making Campus DefaultVeg

On college campuses around the world, students are advocating for a more just food system, starting dining hall initiatives that help university administrators reimagine food norms and transform campus culture.


Apr 18, 2023

Fall Forecast: DefaultVeg Coffee Takes Colleges By Storm

One of the most effective ways to serve planet-friendly food is one our followers already know — serving plants by default.