As is the case at most universities, freshmen are required to have a meal plan. The smart move is to sign up for the option with the least meals and the most Dining Dollars (usable on campus for buying snacks or meals from Columbia cafés). While Columbia food is edible, students often complain that it is nowhere near being worth the price of the meal plan. If the repetitive menus of John Jay and Ferris (the two dining halls at Columbia) have got you down, you can always cross the street to Barnard's dining hall, Hewitt, which accepts Columbia meal plans and offers better-quality food. John Jay and Hewitt make efforts to provide vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, as well as kosher and halal choices. Additionally, Hewitt has an entire separate kitchen dedicated to preparation of kosher meals for those on the kosher meal plan.
Many upperclassmen opt to go off the meal plan and choose instead to invest in lots of Dining Dollars and Flex. Both of these options are usable on campus at the various cafés, and Flex is accepted at several off-campus locations. Between these cafés and the campus dining halls, students have a good variety of on-campus options from which to choose.