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February 24, 2015

Free food listhost? Soon, there will be an app for that

A new website wants to connect University students to free food on campus.

Eighteen universities across the country have communities on Free Food Finder, a website that aims to help college students save money by finding events with free food and introducing them to new organizations. The website also aims to help those hosting events on campus attract larger crowds. Almost 400 college students have registered for the website in less than two months.

The application works by searching college RSS feeds for words like “free food” or “free pizza” and importing existing free food events from Facebook. Users can create an account to view events at their college or sign in using Facebook. Students can also find out about events by texting the name of their college to (224) 231-0986. In the coming months, Free Food Finder will launch iPhone and Android apps.

The co-founders of Free Food Finder, Jon Eberhardt and Genevieve Nielsen, attended Davidson College together and developed the website after noticing how food would go uneaten at events because people were unaware it was even being offered.

“My co-founder and I wanted to build a system to help organizations more efficiently publicize their events and make it easier for students to find a free snack,” Nielsen wrote in an e-mail. “We believe that this [website] can help students really get the most out of their college experience by introducing them to new events, people, and ideas.”

A number of students have joined the UChicago community on Free Food Finder, and at press time five events were listed. One event listed is the Tea Time Concert Series at Fulton Hall, which takes place at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday and features free cookies and tea.

Other universities currently on the application include those in the Chicago area, such as Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but also some scattered across the country, ranging from UCLA to Tulane University in New Orleans.

The website’s development process began last summer when Nielsen was a student at the Starter League web development class, an informal school for web developers in Chicago. Nielsen refined the website over the course of the fall, adding new features based on user feedback, and began marketing the website to universities in January.

As for the next steps, Nielsen said they plan to add a customizable e-mail system so that users can opt in to receive notifications about specific types of events at their desired frequency. While Nielsen and her team would eventually like to expand to as many campuses as possible, they are currently focused on the schools that have already registered for the website in an effort to reach as many students as possible.

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