Eat for free your first week of school

Where to find free food on campus


There is no reason you should pay for a single meal during your first week of classes. If you have, once you’re finished hanging your head in shame, follow these tips to ensure it never happens again.


Visit your school’s website and look for any “Week of Welcome” activities.

This is where you’ll map out a plan of attack. During the first week of school, most Student Affairs offices organize several mixers, BBQs, and ice cream socials to help co-eds get to know each other and feel comfortable on campus.  Expect the cheapest quality food here, since it’s designed to feed the masses — think crispy cardboard burgers, $5-for-a-large pizza, and that ice-crystal-and-food-coloring chocolate-vanilla ice cream that comes by the five-gallon bucket (better load up on the toppings!). Edible, sure, though maybe not five-star.


Experience Greek life — at least for an hour or two.

Every sorority/fraternity on campus is competing for your complete devotion (and, admittedly, your dues), and in this world, reputation is just about everything, so expect top-notch fare. Before and during rush week — formally known as recruitment week at most schools — Greek organizations host all kinds of parties to entice potential new members. Often, there’s a fee for attending recruitment week, but the pre-parties are usually free to attend (and nosh to your heart’s content). Meals can range from chicken wings and hot dogs to steak-topped salads and shrimp cocktail, and they’re often catered by renowned restaurants in the area or prepared by the organization’s chef. Yes, that’s right. Chef.


Consider joining every club your school has to offer.

During the first week of classes, every student organization is vying for your attention (and future membership dues). In the glut of options — many schools boast more than 300 clubs — several try to stand out by giving away free food. As you wander the campus, don’t tuck your head down and swat away their flyers; embrace the mayhem and gobble up their goods! Slices of pizza, cans of soda/energy drinks, chicken strips, candy — even pancake breakfasts or egg and cheese sandwiches — are all common handouts to get you chatting about their club.


Scour your campus newspaper (articles and ads).

If you haven’t read it before, you sure as heck should pick it up now. The features articles will give you the scoop on what’s happening on campus (read: events featuring free meals), and the ads will often offer steep discounts or outright freebies to win over customers’ wallets. IKEA coupons can be veritable gold mines — the company often offers gratis breakfasts or Swedish meatball dinners.


Tailgate early on game day.

Local businesses love to get in on the excitement of football season. Plus, with a captive audience of hungry teens and twentysomethings waiting for the game to start, there’s often a few major chains who will set up pop-up stands or booths to give away samples of their latest foods. Companies like Qdoba, Chik-fil-A, Papa John’s, and Red Bull have been known to hand out full portions of their food to passersby. Quantities are limited, so it’s best to get there early. This can be a gamble, though — if no companies show up, you could get stuck shelling out $8 for a withered hot dog at the stadium, or awkwardly crashing another group’s tailgate party (put up your foam finger as collateral as you challenge someone to a game of bean bag toss?).


Note: You may want to cheat and snack on some carrot sticks, celery, apples or whatever produce you can get your hands on, because as you can see, free food isn’t exactly the healthiest…or the leafy green-iest.

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