Inside Princeton’s Free Food Mailing List

There’s nothing students love more than free food – and lots of it.

At Princeton, the Free Food mailing list allows university affiliates to email information about where to find free food on campus, often after a catered event. The mailing list has been running for over a decade and has become an essential tool for clubs and event organizers to distribute food that would otherwise go to waste.

The Daily Princetonian analyzed posts on the Free Food mailing list to find out when, where and what kind of food is being shared. Our dataset included all announcements from the Free Food mailing list from March 14 of this year – the lifting of the University’s mask mandate – until the end of the spring semester on May 15, as well as the publications throughout September 2022.

During these periods, there were a total of 298 emails to the Free Food mailing list. This range spans 93 days, or an average of 3.2 posts per day. The busiest days were Friday, May 6 and Friday, September 30, both of which saw 10 messages sent each day.

Similarly, posts on the Free Food mailing list have been concentrated towards the end of the weeks. Almost 30% of all messages were sent on a Friday, while only 5% were sent on a Sunday. The number of posts rose steadily throughout the week before dropping precipitously over the weekend, likely due to a decrease in college programs.

Analyzing when the messages were sent, it becomes apparent that most of the free food is shared in the afternoon and evening. 172 posts were made between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., while only 10 announcements were made between 4 a.m. and 12 p.m.

The most popular time to post on the Free Food mailing list was between 6 and 7 p.m. April 23 announcing free chicken tenders at Campus Club.)

Pizza was the most popular mailing list giveaway, with over 16% of posts referencing pizza. Desserts were the second most popular category – defined as cakes, cookies, brownies and other treats – accounting for nearly 11% of posts. The next most popular categories were, in descending order: sandwiches, Asian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, catering with olives and Mediterranean cuisine (without olives).

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Food was primarily distributed in university buildings, accounting for 35% of messages on the mailing list. The remaining positions were split almost evenly between residential buildings, community spaces (such as the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, the Campus Club, and Whig Hall), and the Frist Campus Center.

The former was by far the most common space for posting mailing lists, with 65 posts. The second most popular place for free food was the Campus Club with 18 positions. The Fields Center, Friend Center, Louis A. Simpson International Building, Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building, and Whig Hall all had more than 10 positions.

Within Frist, the 100-level lounge space, home to Witherspoon’s and the campus parcel lockers, was the most popular spot for free food. If the Frist 100 level were its own separate building, it would have the second most positions of any building on campus, topped only by the rest of Frist.

In the buildings and residential areas of Princeton, most food was distributed to Butler College, which had 13 stations. Mathey and Rockefeller colleges were close behind with 12 positions each. Yeh College had the fewest number of positions because the dataset encompasses a period of time when Yeh was not occupied.

Of the other residential settings, only four articles referred to locations in upper-class housing, while three mentioned graduate housing, including Lakeside Graduate Housing, Lawrence Apartments and Graduate College.

Mathey, Rocky, and Butler had more free food offers than the other four residential colleges. (Yeh and New College West only opened in August 2022. First College closed this spring.)

If you’re ever on the hunt for free food on campus, your best bet is to refresh your inbox between 6 and 7 p.m. on Friday nights in hopes of grabbing some leftover pizza from Frist.

Ryan Konarska is a sophomore writer contributing to the data section of “The Prince”. Please address any request for correction to [email protected].

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