You may not know it yet, but New York City is full of free food! Especially if you’re a college student. That food can be healthy and sustainable if you know where to look!
As students, the easiest place to find free food will always be on or around campus, and there are plenty of opportunities if you play your cards right. Once you’re further away from your dorm, the surest bet for success in the realm of free stomach satiation is GrowNYC’s greenmarkets. A few private companies also hand out free samples if you’re willing to explore the city even more.
Here’s where to find free food. Happy sampling!
University clubs have exorbitant financial resources and the bulk of them, at least at NYU, are spent on food for meetings or for food-related events. I still have food left over in my fridge from Earth Week events at NYU, including quinoa with steamed veggies, and teriyaki tofu with green beans! Find clubs with sustainable missions (e.g. Slow Food, Community Agriculture, etc), and they’re more likely to have some healthier or responsibly-sourced treats at their meetings. Hint: bring paper towels or Tupperware with you and snag some food for your dorm or apartment. Everyone will think you’re a genius and will envy your prowess.
Public talks happen everyday on campuses in NYC, and you don’t have to be a student to enjoy them! At a recent free panel at Fales Library at NYU about the meat industry, I managed to eat an entire dinner of hors d’oeuvres: little cups full of roasted kale salad, white bean puree, cauliflower, and curried vegetables each on their own little toasted baguette slices. They also handed out free wine. Win-win. At a talk with with Vandana Shiva, I picked up bags of baked potato chips as others enjoyed tofu, chicken or tuna sandwiches on toasted bagels. You really can’t lose.
Cooking demonstrations occur at every greenmarket in New York City. Market managers cook up a meal with food picked from the farmers at the market that day, and they hand out samples in little free compostable cups! They also give you a toothpick for your eating convenience (and to ensure post-munching oral tidiness). Check with each market to see the days on which they have demonstrations.
Cheese cubes are available at several farmers’ markets, including Tribeca and Union Square, every Wednesday through Saturday, including spicy cheeses filled with peppers. Millport Dairy (those are the super friendly Amish guys at the greenmarkets) makes Hot Jack cheese and other cheddars that will wake up your taste buds and your soul.
Sliced apples will jump out at you when you visit Terhune Orchards‘ stand. The crispy goodness will easily convince you to buy some of their divine apple bread or sweet, but sugar-free applesauce
Like cotton candy? Well, you guessed it – you can get free samples of it at Wood Homestead Maple Syrup stands at various greenmarkets, including Tribeca! It is spun from pure maple syrup! No food dyes or artificial flavors added.
Good To Go organics. If you’re ever strolling around Central Park or Chelsea Piers and are craving some organic sausage or grass fed beef, or free bite-size slices of applegate organic sausage, you’re in luck! The only food carts in the city that serve organic food hand out free samples of their Applegate organic meat and Hudson Valley raised grass-fed beef. You can also ask for a bite of chorizo or Italian style soy sausage if meat isn’t your thing.
Costco. Never, ever discount Costco. Sure there’s only one in Manhattan, but make the trek, and you’ll have samples galore. Their value will quickly surpass that of a round-trip subway ride.
Christine is a senior at NYU, passionate about urban and community agriculture, sustainability and cooking delicious, responsible meals!