Columbia Partnered with Harlem Restaurants to Provide Holiday Meals

February 03, 2021

For the past 15 years, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger hosted a locally catered, end-of-year breakfast to welcome our neighbors and celebrate the season with community leaders, local business owners, elected officials, civic groups, clergy, and more. While COVID-19 prevented this annual in-person gathering, it did create a unique opportunity for Columbia to rethink how it continues to support local restaurants and neighbors during the pandemic. 

Growing our food relief efforts has been one of Columbia’s main focuses in the past year. With that in mind, the University wanted to provide meals to senior citizens and NYCHA residents in Harlem. A program was created to provide vouchers for meals distributed by Youth Opportunity Hub, Get Out Stay Out, Baller City Basketball, Harlem Advocate for Seniors, Connecting Youth Initiative, Resident Tenant Leaders of Grant and Manhattanville houses as well as 3333 Broadway, and Community Boards’ 9 and 10

In all, the University provided 550 vouchers for free grab-and-go meals at Ruby’s Vintage Harlem, Chocolat, Row House, Greedy Pot, and Ricardo Steak House, which graciously provided 50 more meals than requested.  

“This initiative was a feel good, exciting opportunity, which in my experience has not been attempted in this community,” said William Hamer, executive director, Harlem Advocate for Seniors, Inc. “It was different, and not only provided important local support for Harlem businesses, but highlighted some of Harlem's top flight restaurants."

The voucher initiative was made possible by the Office of the President and the Office of Government and Community Affairs at Columbia University.