The Food Pantry at Columbia will begin receiving $5,000 in annual funds through a new partnership between Columbia Dining and the national nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger.
Officially recognized in December 2016 when it received its own space on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall, The Food Pantry at Columbia offers students and non-student affiliates free, nonperishable food disbursements, the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of food items. The pantry receives non-perishable foods at discounted prices from the Food Bank For New York City as well as fresh produce from the Corbin Hill Food Project at $15 per voucher. Partnerships with Columbia Dining in the past included instructional tutorials of food preparation with the food available at the pantry.
Columbia previously did not provide the pantry with regular funding, though it has received funds from all four undergraduate student councils, as well as donations from individuals and individual schools.
This semester, a survey conducted by the School of General Studies revealed that more than a third of students in the school experience low or very low food security, and data shows that the effects of food insecurity extend to multiple schools across the University.
The pantry’s new collaboration with Swipe Out Hunger, accomplished through collaboration with administrators in Columbia Dining, Campus Services, and General Studies, comes after Columbia’s first-ever Campus Hunger Awareness Week, in which students packaged 9,600 meals and discussed the impacts of food insecurity.
In an interview with Spectator in February, Michael Higgins, GS ’20, said while the pantry would seek “perpetual funding” in the future, the initiative had been effectively helping address issues of food insecurity at Columbia. The pantry is entirely run by student volunteers, and recent data reported by the pantry shows a 221 percent increase in disbursements given since the last academic year.
In a statement, Scott Wright, vice president for campus services, voiced that the partnership should increase collaboration with other organizations against food insecurity. Currently, Campus Services offers the Emergency Meal Fund, which provides Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and General Studies students with six free meals at any dining hall.
“Supporting the partnership between The Food Pantry and Swipe Out Hunger is a way for us to continue to provide targeted financial support—and hopefully pave the way for other campus organizations and local business to get involved,” Wright said.
Swipe Out Hunger has worked with over 70 college campuses and served over 1.6 million meals to students, providing solutions for food insecurity that are personalized to the campus. According to Matthew Linsky, GS ’19, the Pantry’s affiliation with Swipe Out has “successfully create a module” for which future partners can be made in addition to Columbia Dining.
Adam He, CC ’20, who serves as vice chair of operations at the Food Pantry and helped found the new partnership, emphasized his excitement for the forthcoming benefits to students.
“I think students will be excited that it’s gaining more momentum. I think originally we might have been in the baby steps, but now we’re really … able to take care of student hunger in a more encompassing way,” he said.