How to Get Free Food In College

I remember in high school, our band had a Halloween party with a lot of leftover food. Afterwards, there was a ton of food left. I took an empty trash bag and took all of the soda, cookies, and pizza I could and walked home.

In college, I was enticed by a free meal and somehow ended up in either a church, a new restaurant, a new organization, a Frat house, the engineering and accounting departments, and a bunch of other different places.

Now working, there’s so much free food, I have to resist cause I’m gaining weight.

Anyways, I want to give you the tips and tricks to never buy groceries ever in college. Or at least, something a bit more nutritious than top ramen.

College Clubs and When to Go for Food

Some college clubs have food.

But which college clubs? In general, college clubs that have a direct correlation to a funding source such as a college is one of them.

For example, I joined a group called Ag Ambassadors, which met EVERY WEEK AT 7 AM. Yes, it was brutal but they had free breakfast. They did a service to the university such as taking students around campus and educated them about the university. Things like this will always offer free food but of course, there is a price and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort.

In general, most major specific clubs will have food. I know the accounting and food science club had lunch every meeting so there’s that. You should probably go to your major specific club anyways because it’s good for your career but I won’t judge if you don’t.

Most afternoon clubs and organizations don’t have free food because it’s either too popular or too poor. You can get lucky some times when they’re electing a new board and need people to come, but in general, you’ll end up hungry or even spending money because everyone likes to go out afterwards. Always check your facebook posts!

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Most College Sponsored Events Have Refreshments

Usually, events that generally won’t spark too much interest have food as an incentive to go. This includes multicultural events, touchy (but not too touchy) topics, obscure science events, etc. Most sensible colleges will have a diversity department that focuses on educating the public about certain events and most of those budgets go to food.

The only reason I’m saying this is because I had to coordinate a lot of those events in college. You can find these events on bulletin boards whether electronically or not. What’s also very useful is to sign up on their email list and you’ll get updates on the latest free food events. These events are usually in the main part of campus, like the town square or whatever it’s called.

Who knows, maybe you’ll actually be interested in the Chumash Indian’s cultural habits or how rain water affects the spring climate in Japan.

Most Dorm or Apartment Complexes Have Free Events with a Lot of Food

I only lived in a dorm once and then lived off campus because it was like, 5 times cheaper. However, I would go up there to meet with people and of course, there was an event there that had free food. I’ve gotten hot dogs, snow cones, you name it. There is always a crazy weird event at the dorm or campus-sponsored apartment complexes and it’s so easy to go there, grab food and leave.

Though I just did it randomly, most apartment complexes will have fliers out. The smart ones email you or have stuff on their facebook page.

Dumpster Diving

A student in my class dumpster dived (dove). For me, it was too much effort and I have dignity problems. However, you can score big dumpster diving. One time this student found 2 bags of sealed bagels and made bagel chips from it.

As a Food Scientist, one of your superpowers is to know what expiration dates don’t matter and that there are certain conditions that have to be achieved for a food to go bad. Use what you learned in college and go dumpster diving!

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

So most of these tips feel like a lot of work and they probably are. You have to inconveniently plan where the food is, walk to the place, probably have to talk to people, and all that stuff. But this is an avenue to get out of your shell and try something new. Sure you’ll save a good amount of money (I might have saved like $200 dollars/month doing this). Yes you’re going to have to put in effort, but if the biggest effort is to socialize, then it’s your choice if a free meal is worth that or not. For some people, socializing is hard, but I’m a guy who gets social anxiety eating alone in a restaurant.

Overall, events with free food is somewhat of a trade-off but if you’re like me and pretty much lived on campus 16 hours a day in college, having your avenues where you can just pop in, talk to a friend and eat some food gave me something to look forward to during those tough times in college. If this is enough of an incentive for getting up your butt and doing something new for a day, then that should be good enough. I’ve never (barely) ever regretted a time where a free meal has done me wrong.

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