Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to The Food Pantry at Columbia’s online ordering platform! You can use this website to request disbursements that can be picked up at one of our pantry locations. Here is a bit of information that will help get you started. Feel free to contact us directly if you have any questions!

Creating an Account

  • Click/tap on the registration link in the menu section
  • Complete all required fields
    • The Username can be anything, not necessarily your UNI
    • The User Email must be a Columbia-affiliate email address (UNI@columbia.edu, UNI@barnard.edu, UNI@utsnyc.edu). Please do not use aliases or personal email addresses
    • The number of points a recipient receives is based on the number of people in the household who directly depend on the recipient for food, including the recipient themselves. Please note, roommates do not count as dependents. For example:
      • If you live by yourself, you will receive 20 points per order to spend on food.
      • If you live with Columbia-affiliated student roommates, you will receive 20 points per order to spend on food.
      • If you live with a non-Columbia individual who does not directly depend on you for food, you will receive 20 points per order to spend on food.
      • If you live with a spouse or significant other who is directly dependent on you for food, you will receive 40 points per order to spend on food.
      • Each additional person who directly depends on you for food adds 20 points to your allotment of points that can be spent on each order.

The United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) defines food insecurity as a reduction of quality, variety, or desirability of diet or eating pattern with reduced food intake.

As a college student, this definition can be further detailed in a number of ways:

  • Skipping meals because of a lack of dining swipes
  • Skipping meals because of a lack of money
  • Taking containers to dining halls to take food back to a residence
  • Contemplating whether to buy food or pay for other essential services such as rent, metrocards, or medicine
  • Sleeping in public locations on or close to campus to save money on transportation costs
  • Internalizing the effects of food insecurity out of shame or the stigma that plagues this issue
  • Purposefully seeking out events that have catered or packaged food

The following are some examples of things that do not constituent food insecurity:

  • Accessing resources as an alternative to traditional grocery stores
  • Accessing resources because of a lack of time to go to traditional grocery stores
  • Accessing resources as an alternative to dining services
  • Accessing resources in order to stock up on food for a holiday break
  • Accessing resources to share amongst roommates

While neither list is exhaustive, it is up to each individual to decide whether or not their respective circumstance constituents food insecurity.

Ordering a Disbursement

  • Click on the Shop menu option
  • Select the location where you would like to pick up your order
    • Lerner location: 5th floor Lerner Hall
    • Barnard location: 125 LeFrak Center, Barnard Hall (currently not open)
    • Medical Center location: 1st floor 50 Haven Avenue (currently not open)
  • Select the food category or categories that best serves your dietary needs
  • Select the food items that you want, up to the total point allotment provided to you during the registration process
  • Go to your Cart when ready to check out
  • Ensure the shipping location is set for the location where your items are located
  • Proceed to checkout when ready
  • Select the pick-up date
  • Click Place order when ready to submit

Orders are prepared ahead of time to minimize the amount of time needed for recipients to spend at the pantry locations. We only prepare orders for the next pick-up date to ensure we have enough space to store all the orders that need to be picked up.

We recently instituted a new 24-hour lead time for all orders to ensure that our volunteers could properly and safely manage the influx of orders while servicing those recipients who walked up to the pantry locations.

All orders for a particular open hours day must be placed by no later than 24 hours prior to the start of that open hours. For example, if you would like to pick up an order at our Lerner location on a Tuesday, your order needs to be submitted by no later than 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Any orders placed after that time will be processed and available for pick-up during the next available open hours day, which for the Lerner location would be Friday.

Absolutely. Orders can now be edited while in Processing status; however, please note that the existing order will be replaced with a new order and order number. Please do the following if there is ever a situation where you need to add an item to, or remove an item from, an order:

    • In the main menu section of the site, click on Previous Orders
    • Click Edit Order next to the order you would like to update; only orders in Processing state can be edited. The items from that order will be placed back into your cart, and you will be able to add additional items to the cart up to your account’s point allotment.
    • Once you are ready to check out, you will see a credit of points for the items that were in the original order and then the value of the points for the new items.
    • Once the order is submitted, the original order will be automatically cancelled and the new order will be submitted. This is the order that will be processed.

Absolutely! No new recipient will be denied service or turned away because of the recently-instituted lead time policy. If you walk up to one of our pantry locations and advise the volunteers that you are new, they will walk you through the registration process and prepare your order while you wait. This only applies to walk-up visits during our open hours. Please note that any subsequent orders would be subject to the 24-hour lead time policy.

What classifies as food insecurity is not a black-and-white situation. It is for this reason that we added this question. If a recipient selects No that they are not in an immediate need for food, this will not automatically exclude them from using our services. The order will be placed on hold and a member of our executive team will reach out to you via email to get a little more information as to your current circumstance.

For your peace of mind, your response will be kept in strict confidence, and will not be shared with anyone outside of The Food Pantry at Columbia's executive team.

While our locations only have the capacity to provide non-perishable food, and refrigerated and frozen food at our Barnard location, we have partnered with Corbin Hill Food Project to offer subsidized vouchers to receive one (1) fresh-produce disbursement a week from their farmshare.

To request a voucher, head to our Shop and click on the Corbin Hill Farmshares icon. This will provide more information as to the specifics of this initiative.

Unfortunately, no. The Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative is for those who are either immunocompromised, in an household that is immunocompromised, or under State- or University-mandated quarantine. It is presumed that any recipient under the Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative cannot leave their residence, which would mean they cannot pick up a disbursement.

Every recipient gets 20 points per dependent in their household, not including roommates. If you received this message, it's more than likely because you are over your total point allotment for that order. Please reduce the order below the allotted points for your household and try again. If that does not work, please contact us for further assistance.

Picking Up a Disbursement

Absolutely. We hold all orders for two (2) open hours days before the order is cancelled.

For example, let's say you place an order to be picked up at our Lerner location. That location has open hours every Tuesday and Friday afternoons. If you place an order to be picked up on a Friday, you have until the end of open hours on Tuesday to pick it up. If the order is not picked up before the end of open hours on Tuesday, the order will be cancelled and the items added back to our inventory.

Unfortunately, no. Our inventory changes on a regular basis, but our eCommerce site is kept up to date as much as possible. To this end, we do not allow orders to be changed once they are processed. However, we are working on updating. our eCommerce site such that orders can be updated so long as it has not been processed. More details to come.

Unfortunately, no. Each pantry location has its own inventory, which would make it difficult to ensure an accurate inventory count if we allowed orders to be processed in this way. If an order is submitted that has items from multiple pantry locations, that order will be placed on hold and the recipient will be contacted for clarification.

We recently instituted a new 24-hour lead time for all orders to ensure that our volunteers could properly and safely manage the influx of orders while servicing those recipients who walked up to the pantry locations.

All orders for a particular open hours day must be placed by no later than 24 hours prior to the start of that open hours. For example, if you would like to pick up an order at our Lerner location on a Tuesday, your order needs to be submitted by no later than 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Any orders placed after that time will be processed and available for pick-up during the next available open hours day, which for the Lerner location would be Friday.

We ask that only the person who placed the order pick up the order. This is to not only ensure that you actually get your food, but also to prevent misuse of our services.

The only exception to this is if you are physically unable to access the buildings where our pantry locations are situated. In this event, please email The Food Pantry at Columbia prior to the time when this other person comes to pick up the disbursement and provide the following:

  • Your name
  • The name and UNI of the person who will pick up the order
  • The reason for the request

We will respond and advise if this request is accepted. Please note that we will not release the order to another party without this information prior to their arrival.

We take care to ensure all items that we offer are safe to consume. To that end, the date stamped on any food or drink item, save for baby food and medicine, is not an expiration date. That date is provided by the manufacturer to indicate the date the item is freshest or should be sold by stores. The Food Pantry at Columbia follows USDA and FBNYC guidelines in relation to the extended dates for food and drinks.

If you would still like to replace an unopened item you received from The Food Pantry at Columbia, please contact us via email to coordinate the replacement.

We strive to maintain as accurate an inventory as possible; however, several factors play into whether an item is available. If an item is not available when your order is being processed, it will be removed from the order and our inventory will be adjusted to ensure a more accurate accounting.

Farmshare Vouchers

  • Click/tap on the Shop menu option
  • Click/tap on the Corbin Hill Farmshares category
  • Click/tap on the specific farmshare location. There is currently only one location, Riverside Farmshare at the Riverside Church, but more locations may be added in the future.
  • Select the date(s) you would like to pick up a farmshare disbursement and add it to your cart

A farmshare is an initiative within a community-based organization (CBO) that offers fresh produce at low or no cost to those in need. The Food Pantry at Columbia is fortunate enough to have partnered with Corbin Hill Food Project to offer subsidized vouchers good for one (1) fresh produce disbursement per week.

Unfortunately, no. The Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative is for those who are either immunocompromised, in an household that is immunocompromised, or under State- or University-mandated quarantine. It is presumed that any recipient under the Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative cannot leave their residence, which would mean they cannot go to the Riverside Church to pick up a fresh produce disbursement.

Fresh produce disbursement are available every Tuesday afternoon at the Riverside Church, at 121st & Claremont. However, recipients must first request a voucher through our eCommerce site, and respond to the confirmation email in order to receive a fresh produce voucher.

Vouchers are emailed the weekend before the date you selected, but only if you responded to the confirmation email sent to you the weekend after you requested the voucher. We ask that you contact us by no later than the day before the date you selected in the event you do not receive your voucher so that we can properly investigate the situation. Unfortunately, we will no longer fulfill same-day replacement requests.

We completely understand that life happens. All we ask is that you contact us to let us know that you will no longer be able to make it to pick up the farmshare disbursement.

If we start to notice a pattern, or if there are three (3) instances where you miss your disbursement pick-up date with no communication, unfortunately, we will no longer be able to provide you vouchers for this initiative. You will, however, still be able to receive non-perishable food from any of our pantry locations.

Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, The Food Pantry at Columbia created the Disbursement Drop-off Initiative to better serve students in need. The premise is simple: volunteers pick up pre-packaged disbursements and drop them off to recipients in need in a secure and contactless process. This mitigates the health and safety risks of both the volunteer and the recipient. Ideally, volunteers will be matched with recipients who are within relatively close proximity to their own homes. Our volunteers will pick up a prepackaged disbursement, prepared based on your specific needs, and drop it off in a secure location at your residence.

Head over to our main website that has more information about the Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative and the sign-up form.

The criteria for using the Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative are as follows:

  • The Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative is solely for currently-registered students who either
    • Are immunocompromised or live in a household with an immunocompromised individual
    • Are mandated to quarantine by either the University or the State
    • In addition, the delivery address must fall within the pre-determined delivery range:
      • Medical Center Location:130th to 207th Streets in Manhattan and east to Third Avenue in the Bronx
      • Lerner Location:75th to 155th Streets in Manhattan (on both the east and west sides)

Unfortunately, no. The Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative is for those who are either immunocompromised, in an household that is immunocompromised, or under State- or University-mandated quarantine. It is presumed that any recipient under the Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative cannot leave their residence, which would mean they cannot go to the Riverside Church to pick up a fresh produce disbursement.

Unfortunately, no. The Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative is for those who are either immunocompromised, in an household that is immunocompromised, or under State- or University-mandated quarantine. It is presumed that any recipient under the Disbursement Drop-Off Initiative cannot leave their residence, which would mean they cannot pick up a disbursement.