Posted on Mar 5, 2019 in Alumni News and News
For years, University of Kansas students have used a Twitter account to find a slice of pizza here or a hot dog there.
Kristopher Velasco’s idea for getting the word out about free food turned into a staple for student-campus synergy. Students got the free food they wanted, and campus organizations got students to their events—all thanks to the succinctly named @FreeFoodAtKU account.
“When I was at KU, I spent nearly all of my time in the Union, and I saw so many events offering free food,” Velasco, c’13, said. “Over time, I became convinced that you could probably get free food every single day on campus if you just knew where to look. And as a poor college student, I knew that there were a lot of students out there like myself who would love to have this information.”
Love at First Bite
—Free Food At KU (@FreeFoodAtKU) August 30, 2011
Soon after the first tweet, Velasco realized it wouldn’t have to be a one-man show.
“At first, I thought the account would primarily be successful because everyone loves free food,” he said. “I knew students would be interested in knowing about giveaways, whether it be pizza from the Dole Institute of Politics, hot dogs from the Alumni Association, or tea and cookies from SUA.
“What I didn’t expect was the support the account got from those giving out free food. As the account grew, organizations or departments holding events with free food would tweet at the account, hoping it would be shared and increase attendance to whatever they were promoting. That really helped the account take off because I became aware of so many more opportunities for free food. Even random students would tweet at the account letting us know about opportunities. It quickly felt like this was a tool everyone could benefit from, with students wanting food and organizers wanting students.”
As the man behind the curtain, Velasco faced a choice about revealing his identity.
“It was generally a secret. People close to me knew who was behind the account, but not a lot of people knew at first,” he said. “As the account became more prominent, though, and I would run into people I never met before talking about it, I would start to divulge. So over time it became well known who was behind it.”
Today, Velasco is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin working on a PhD in sociology. (No word yet on the quality of free food at UT.)
Free Food today
@FreeFoodAtKU is still active on Twitter today, tipping off students to campus events with giveaways. With food insecurity a growing issue, more options are now available for the campus community. The Campus Cupboard, a grocery store-style resource organized by the Center for Community Outreach, is open to anyone in need.
This year, the Student Alumni Network introduced the Free Food Finder. The calendar feed sends a push notification to students’ phones when there’s a bite to eat available. The Free Food Finder is available to all students at kustudentalumni.org and in the KU Alumni app.
Free Food Finder
Students, to find free food resources on campus, follow these steps:
- Download the KU Alumni app.
- Enable push notifications. We promise we won’t blast you with too many!
- Register. Just tap “Register,”and enter your name and student ID number.
- After you register, you’ll see a tile in the app called “Free Food,” which features a calendar that includes upcoming opportunities to find free food!
If your campus event offers free food and you want to include it on the app’s Free Food Finder, fill out our submission form. Events are added to the Student Alumni Network’s Free Food Finder calendar and promoted to KU Student Alumni Network members through email and push notifications. Only campus entities and KU Alumni partners are allowed to submit events for promotion. The KU Alumni Association reserves the right to decline submissions that don’t fit or align with our mission.