Dining Plan Policy

Editor's Note: Service changes are in effect through the end of Spring 2024. 

The following points are outlined to help Dining Plan holders understand the framework of service provided by Columbia Dining.

Got questions? Check our general dining plan FAQs!

Dining Plan Requirements 
  • First-Year Columbia Columbia and Engineering students are required to have a dining plan.  

  • Plans are optional for upperclass Columbia College or Engineering students, as well as General Studies, or Columbia University or Teachers College graduate students.

Contract Terms 
  • Dining Plan enrollment is a contract for one academic year.  

  • Once a student enrolls in a plan, they may elect to change their plan option during the change period at the beginning of each semester. 

  • Plans cannot be canceled. 

  • Plans are one per individually registered Columbia University or Teachers College student and cannot be shared. 

Service Dates  

Fall Semester:

  • First-Year dining plan service starts the Wednesday of new student orientation. 

  • Dining plan service for all other students starts the Friday before classes begin. 

  • There is service on an adjusted scale during Fall, Thanksgiving, and Winter breaks. 

  • Dining is closed on major University Holidays, like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. 

Spring Semester:

  • All plans start on the first day of classes in the Spring semester. 

  • On an adjusted scale, dining is available during Spring break. 

  • Dining Plan service for continuing students ends the last day of final exams/Friday before Commencement. 

  • Dining Plan service for graduating seniors ends the day before Commencement.

  • Dining is closed during the Summer period. 

Academic Year 2023-24: 

Check the Dining calendar for other key dates and events throughout the academic year.

  • First-Year Columbia College and Columbia Engineering Dining Plans start Wednesday, August 30, 2023. 

  • Dining Plans for all other students begin Friday, September 1, 2023. 

  • Fall service will operate through December 22, 2023.

    • Dining is closed on November 23, December 23 -27, 2023 and January 1, 2024. 

  • Spring service begins on January 2, 2024. 

  • Dining Plan service for non-graduating students ends on May 10, 2024.

  • Dining Plan service for graduating seniors ends on May 14, 2024.

  • One swipe is one meal. If you want to take a second meal to go, please use another swipe or a guest swipe. 

  • Guest swipes can be used by the plan holder: 

    • to swipe in someone who is not a Dining Plan holder 

    • for themself if they want a second meal or run out of meal swipes that week

Meal Expiration  
  • First-Year meals expire at the end of each week; 

  • Upperclass, GS, and graduate meals in Plan A / Weekly meals expire each week. 

  • Meals in term-based plans expire at the end of the academic year. This includes Plan A / Term, Plan A /Meals, Plan B / Dining Dollars, Plan B / Flex, Plan C, Plan C Plus, and Plan D.

    • Unused meals from the Fall Term will rollover to Spring Term. However, these meals will not be viewable in SSOL or available for use until all meal swipes for Spring Term have been used.

  • Plan EZ1, 2, & 3 meals expire each week. 

  • Meals do not roll over year to year. 

  • Dining Dollars and Flex accounts roll over from year to year and will expire the day after graduation. 

  • The residential dining halls accept meal swipe, Dining Dollars, Flex, and Credit Card. Cash is not accepted. 

  • If using a form other than meal swipe, please tell the cashier before they tap your card. 

  • Retail units accept Cash, Dining Dollars, Flex, and Credit Card. Swipes cannot be used in retail locations.

Emergency Meal Fund 
  • No questions asked meals made available to Columbia College, Columbia Engineering and General Studies students 

  • Students are eligible for six tickets per semester 

  • Must request ticket from school:

    • CC and SEAS students who need tickets should contact [email protected] to meet with a staff member and receive assistance. Tickets will be distributed during business hours in 601 Lerner.

    • GS students who need tickets should go to 403 Lewisohn Hall and may  contact [email protected] for questions.

  • EMF tickets may not be used for special events

NYC Department of Health Certified Organization 
  • Columbia Dining is a certified food service operator with the NYC Department of Health and participates in regular inspections. This also means Dining must follow best practices and procedures that guide how dining service operates.

To-go Service 
  • All Columbia Dining Plan holders are eligible for the reusable to-go container program

  • How it works: 

    • First Year students are given a token a Check-In. 

    • Continuing students can pick up a new token the first week of dining service at the beginning of each semester.  

    • After that period, it will cost $5 to join the program (payable by Dining Dollars, Flex, or credit card). 

    • Students redeem a token for a container at the register at any residential dining hall location. Students can turn in a used container for a clean one or a token to use at another time.

    • To-go containers are only accepted at our residential dining plan locations: John Jay, JJ's Place, Ferris Booth, and Faculty House. To-go containers cannot be used at Chef Mike's Sub Shop or retail units. 

    • Containers should not be thrown out or recycled. They must be returned to any residential dining hall for cleaning. 

    • There is a 50 cent charge for disposable to-go containers provided by Columbia Dining.

Personal Bags, Bottles, Containers and Other Items 
  • Personal beverage bottles, to-go containers or tupperware, and tote or shopping bags may not be used in the dining halls.

  • The NYC Department of Health regulates resuable containers permitted in certified operations. One of the requirements outlined is that Dining wash the reusable containers on premise at a specified temperature.  

Surplus Food 
  • In accordance with NYC Department of Health guidelines for Food Safety and Community Sanitation, Columbia Dining cannot donate surplus food that has been served during mealtimes.

Allergies and Special Diets 
  • Students with significant food allergies are encouraged to register with the Columbia Dining Registered Dietitian. 

  • Only students on the Kosher Dining Plan have access to Kosher areas at either Columbia or Barnard Dining. 


Students on Dining Plans participate in all-you-care-to-eat plans at dining service locations in John Jay Dining Hall, JJ's Place, Ferris Booth Commons, Faculty House and Grace Dodge Dining Hall. At Chef Mike's Sub Shop and Chef Don's Pizza Pi, students can use a single meal swipe for a set number of items that constitute a meal.

When on the-go, students may use the Columbia Dining eco-container; other types of personal containers or Tupperware are not allowed. Students may opt to eat-in or get a take-out container, but not both. Stuffing personal bags/backpacks, filling outside Tupperware, or removing an excessive amount of food is considered theft and will be reported to student conduct. Students may face disciplinary action for this behavior. See more in the Guide to Living. Columbia Dining reserves the right to refuse service for any reason.

At certain dining locations, seating is available outside the dining hall (e.g., at the tables outside the entrance to Ferris, in the John Jay courtyard, etc.) and students may opt to sit there. If you plan to return to the servery for more food, you must leave your CUID with the cashier. If you do not leave your CUID, reentry will not be allowed unless you swipe in again.

Columbia Dining and Barnard Dining are separate, but reciprocal programs. The exchange details are agreed upon by the schools at the start of every academic year, including when and where students may use reciprocal service. Basic parameters are as follows:

  • Columbia and Barnard students on a Dining Plan can use meals at either school. 

  • At Columbia, Barnard meal plan holders can use exchange meals at John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, JJ's Place, Chef Mike's Sub Shop, Chef Don's Pizza Pi and Faculty House. At Teachers College, Barnard students can use exchange meals at Grace Dodge Dining Hall.  

    • Barnard points are limited to Barnard Dining locations.

  • At Barnard, Columbia students can dine at Hewitt, the Diana and Liz’s Place.

    • Dining Dollars can also be used at Barnard retail and residential locations.

Barnard Dining Plan holders should contact the program directly with questions or for additional information.

Columbia Dining occasionally takes photographs or video in the dining halls and at events. If you do not wish to be photographed or recorded, please notify the photographer and a manager.