There’s nothing college students love more than free food — and a lot of it.
At Princeton, the Free Food listserv provides a place for University affiliates to email others with information on where free food can be found on campus, often after a catered event. The listserv has been in operation for more than a decade and has become an essential tool for clubs and event hosts to distribute food that would otherwise go to waste.
The Daily Princetonian analyzed posts on the Free Food listserv to uncover when, where, and what kind of food is shared. Our dataset encompassed every Free Food listserv announcement since March 14 of this year — the lifting of the University’s mask mandate — to the conclusion of the spring semester on May 15, as well as postings throughout September 2022.
During these periods, there were a total of 298 emails to the Free Food listserv. This range encompasses 93 days, making for an average of 3.2 posts per day. The busiest days were Friday, May 6 and Friday, Sept. 30, which both had 10 messages sent each day.
Similarly, posts to the Free Food listserv were concentrated towards the ends of weeks. Almost 30 percent of all messages were sent on a Friday, while just five percent were sent on Sundays. The number of posts rose consistently throughout the week before falling precipitously over the weekends, likely due to a decrease in academic programming.
Analyzing when postings were sent out, it becomes evident that most free food is shared in the afternoons and evenings. 172 posts were made between the hours of 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., while just 10 announcements were made between 4 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The most popular hour to post on the Free Food listserv was between 6 and 7 p.m. No posts were recorded between 3 and 4 a.m. as well as between 5 and 8 a.m. (The sole 4–5 a.m. listserv post was at 4:23 a.m. on April 23 advertising free chicken tenders in Campus Club.)
Pizza was the most popular listserv giveaway, with over 16 percent of posts referencing pizza. Desserts were the next most popular category — defined as cake, cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats — making up almost 11 percent of the posts. The next-most popular categories were, in descending order: sandwiches, Asian cuisine, Mexican food, catering from Olives, and (non-Olives) Mediterranean food.
Food was predominantly given out in academic buildings, consisting of 35 percent of posts to the listserv. The remaining posts were split almost equally between residential buildings, community spaces (such as the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, Campus Club, and Whig Hall), and the Frist Campus Center.
Frist was the most common space for listserv posting by far, with 65 posts. The next most popular spot for free food was Campus Club with 18 posts. The Fields Center, Friend Center, the Louis A. Simpson International Building, Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building, and Whig Hall all had more than 10 posts.
Within Frist, the 100 level lounge space, home to Witherspoon’s and the campus package lockers, was the most popular place for free food. If the Frist 100 level were its own separate building, it would have the second-most posts of any building on campus, topped only by the remainder of Frist.
Across Princeton’s residential buildings and areas, the most food was given out in Butler College, which had 13 posts. Mathey and Rockefeller Colleges were close behind with 12 posts each. Yeh College had the fewest number of posts, as the dataset encompasses a period of time during which Yeh was not occupied.
Among other residential settings, just four posts referenced locations in upperclass housing, while three mentioned graduate housing, including Lakeside Graduate Housing, Lawrence Apartments, and Graduate College.
Mathey, Rocky, and Butler had more free food postings than the other four residential colleges. (Yeh and New College West were not opened until August 2022. First College closed this spring.)
If you’re ever looking for free food on campus, your best bet is to refresh your inbox between 6 and 7 p.m. on a Friday night with hopes of grabbing some leftover pizza at Frist.
Ryan Konarska is a sophomore contributing writer for the data section of the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.