There are over 9,000 public mailing lists at Stanford — but only one tells you where to get free food.
For the 463 members who are subscribed to the free-food-alert mailing list, the process is simple. Every email is formatted to get straight to the main course; the subject line is [location]:[short description of food]. For those that are hesitant to join yet another mailing list, free-food-alert also has an associated blog that records all posts from the list for members who want free food without the extra email.
“I would say there are two or three alerts per week,” said Melissa Ch’ng M.D. ’14, who has been a moderator of the list for about 10 months. “There tend to be more events at the beginning of the school year when the different organizations are getting people together, and then it gets much quieter during the summer.”
Ysis Tarter ’15 initially thought the free food list was a myth. As a member of the gates-food mailing list, which announces free food availability in the Gates building, Tarter decided free-food-alert was worth Googling and subsequently stumbled upon the blog.
“I joined because I live in Mirrielees and hate food shopping. I was never big on dining hall food even when I had a meal plan, so it made sense,” Tarter said. “Also, even though I have a kitchen to cook for myself, I still can’t make pizza or burritos as quickly as I can pick one up for free.”
From events as unusual as the annual Lyman pig roast to barbecues in Rains, the free food seems like a sweet deal, but Ch’ng points out that publicizing events solely based on the available free food might seem opportunistic and offensive.
“I try to only publicize events that look like they are meant for a broader audience,” Ch’ng said.
The list is dependent on its members’ contributions to thrive. Those on the list are encouraged to help out the other free food seekers as much as possible. Just as the mailing list’s information page states, “Without each other, you and I would starve! (Or at least we would have to resort to not-so-free food. And I would rather starve.)”