How To: Use Your Dining Plan

Are you new around here? Find out how to take full advantage of your dining plan.

August 26, 2023

We love welcoming new plan holders into our community and want you to take full advantage of your plan. Find out everything you need to know as a new plan holder.

Your dining plan is accessible through your CUID. Make sure you bring it with you everywhere!

Every plan is made up of meal swipes and may also include Dining Dollars or Flex.

Using Your Meal Swipes

Meal swipes are accepted at all our non-retail locations. These locations are either: 

  • All-you-care-to-eat dining, where one meal swipe provides you with unlimited access to the servery so you can return as many times as you need throughout your meal.
  • One set meal for one meal swipe , where you receive a pre-determined number of items, typically an entrée, drink, dessert and side dish, for a meal swipe.

Meal swipes can also be used at select Barnard locations through the Columbia-Barnard Meal Exchange program.

One Meal Swipe = One Meal

A meal swipe is equivalent to a single meal. All-you-care-to-eat dining is intended to provide you with the flexibility to eat what you need in a single sitting, while you are in the dining halls. When you take excessively from the dining halls, you are taking from each other.

Using Your Dining Dollars and Flex

Dining Dollars and Flex expand your dining options both on and off campus. They both operate as a declining debit balance attached to your student account and are accessible through your ID card, but with key differences.

You can add Dining Dollars and Flex to your account at any time.  

  • Teachers College students should speak to a cashier. 

  • All other students can add funds through SSOL

Learn more about the details of your plan. 

Meals on Weekly vs. Term-Based Plan 

Your plans offer either a set number of meals per week or per term.  

Meals on a weekly plan reset every Sunday, meaning you start Sunday morning with a full balance of meals. Swipes do not rollover week-to-week or term-to-term. 

Meals on a term-based plan rollover at the end of term but will not be available until you have used all of your second term meals. For example, if your plan provides 100 meals per term and you roll over 5 meal swipes from the fall, you will not have access (or see those meals as available) until you have used all 100 meals in the spring. Swipes expire at the end of the academic year. 

Complementary Meals 

Most plans offer a number of “complementary” meals. They exist in addition to your set number of weekly or term meals and are great when: 

  • You want to swipe in a friend 

  • You run out of meals at the end of the week or term 

Dining Plan Policy 

Read through the terms and conditions of dining plans, including an overview our service calendar, community expectations, and more. 

We know students have crazy busy schedules – that’s why we offer several ways to take a meal to-go! 

Express Dining Options 

Chef Mike’s Sub Shop offers express service where you can grab a pre-made sub and all the sides without waiting in line to order. This option is great when you’re short on time between classes, meetings, and other obligations. 

JJ’s Place has a Take-4 option where you can use a meal swipe in exchange for four to-go items, including yogurt, cheese sticks, trail mix, hot and cold cereal, fruit, and more. This option is great when you want to stock up on snacks for your room. 

To-Go Containers 

Only two kinds of to-go containers are allowed in Dining locations per New York City Department of Health protocols: 

  1. The reusable Columbia Dining eco-container: the eco-containers are the only reusable containers allowed inside the dining halls. All Dining Plan Holders are invited to participate in the program free of charge.  

  2. Single-use compostable containers: compostable containers can be purchased from the cashier for 50 cents. Only one container will be provided per meal swipe. 

Personal Tupperware or water bottles are not permitted in the serveries. Please do not attempt to use them to take food or beverages to-go. 

We love hearing from you – our plateholders – about anything and everything dining-related! Whether you have compliments or complaints, we’re always ready to listen. After all, our program is designed by you for you and your feedback helps us be ever better. 

Talk to a Manager in the Unit When… 

…You need immediate assistance. This might include, but isn’t limited to: 

  • Questions or concerns about ingredients or allergens 

  • Requesting assistance (i.e., a beverage machine needs a refill, you’re looking for a particular sauce or topping, etc.) 

  • Reporting something wrong with your food. Let us fix it, asap!  

Send Us a Text When… 

…You want to tell us about something you really liked, want to give a staff shoutout, or want to suggest a menu tweak.  

Did you love that sandwich at Chef Mike’s but wish it came with BBQ sauce? Did one of our staff members make you feel better after a tough exam? Do you think JJ’s should make Thai sweet chili hot wings a permanent option? Tell us! Every location has a specific text code that lets you send unit-specific feedback directly to our management team. And yes, we read every text…. even the late night ones. 

Submit our Feedback Form when… 

…You have a question or want to tell us something that won’t fit in a text. This might include, but isn’t limited to: 

  • Sending us a recipe for a menu suggestion. Don’t worry, we won’t be offended! We love when students feel so passionate about a dish that they send us the recipe. Plus, it helps us maintain the authenticity of the food we make. 

  • Asking detailed questions about allergies or dietary restrictions, your dining plan, or something else.  

See the feedback form.

What a great question, thank you so much for asking! Here are the best ways to stay in-the-know on all things Dining: 

  1. Sign up for TheDish to receive text messages about upcoming events, special menu offerings, and so much more.  

  1. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook

Find your answer in the FAQs