With dining closing across campus for winter break, the Columbia Food Pantry is more important than ever. I sat down with some of their board to learn more about the initiative. 

The Food Pantry at Columbia was an idea first introduced in 2014 when students in FLIP (first generation income partnership)  came together to present to the school of general studies the need for increased food security at Columbia University. From this, the GCSC started to discuss the idea of a food pantry. Over the next two years, they gained legitimacy, transforming from a GS only initiative to an official club affiliated with the university. Now, six years later, with three locations across campus and over 5,000 distributions, the food pantry is still growing, with distribution dropoff, a farm share initiative, and an e-commerce site. While The food pantry was initiated for the purpose of helping GS students, anyone student access to the Columbia buildings is welcome to use the pantry. While GS students are still the highest frequenters of the food pantry, students from all schools and the medical center have benefited from the pantry, including nearly 600 disbursements from Columbia college. This figure is especially notable because initially, the food pantry reports that CCSC did not initially think food insecurity was an issue of their student body.

The Food Pantry also understands that at such an affluent university, it is difficult to fight the stigma of food insecurity within the student population. To combat this, the food pantry requires all volunteers to sign an NDA, attend sensitivity training, and keeps all student interactions confidential. All intake information is confidential and non-intrusive, and with the new e-commerce site, the pantry has increased initiatives of anonymity. 

This upcoming winter break, the dining halls will be closed, only providing for lunches over the two and a half week hiatus, but the food pantry will not, continuing to do their work every day to ensure that no student is left hungry. Additionally, students in quarantine or who are immunocompromised will have the ability to have their food delivered instead of picking it up on site. This is a project that the food pantry began over the summer, delivering food across all five boroughs of New York City. Now it continues on a smaller scale, with the unique needs of the pandemic in mind.

The food pantry continues to do essential work on a day to day basis, and is always happy to welcome a new student in need and volunteers!

Important food pantry links

The main site

To pre-order food

To volunteer

To learn more

Photo Credit: The Columbia Food Pantry

Edited at 5:15 pm December 20th: The Columbia Food Pantry was changed to the Food Pantry at Columbia, the comments of CCSC were revised, and the FLIP GCSC relationship was clarified.