Free Food GroupMe reaches 1,000

by Joe Regan | 5/25/16 5:32pm

The food options at Dartmouth College are many, but what happens to the leftovers? The “FREE FOOD @NOW” GroupMe’s 1,062 members stand as an answer to that question.

The group message was started this April by Jessica Link ’17 with the same eight members from a GroupMe comprised of her freshmen year friends.

“I started the GroupMe because I was always noticing free food everywhere,” Link said. “Also, as most Dartmouth students have experienced, DBA tends to run out toward the end of a term.”

The GroupMe quickly grew to over 100 members in the weeks following its formation on April 11. Soon after, growth exploded and the membership reached 500, and finally 1000 after only a few more weeks had passed. The limit for a GroupMe is set by the company at 200. The Free Food GroupMe has been able to continue to grow past that point because Link has emailed the company four times to increase the limit of the group. Link also expressed surprise and pleasure at how the GroupMe has remained well-behaved relative to its size.

“People who are temporarily exercising impaired judgement sometimes start deleting people at random,” she said. “Then I have to delete those people in order to get it to stop. It is difficult though because their friends will just add them back and GroupMe doesn’t have a feature that bans users permanently.”

Link said that the problem of people causing havoc by deleting others at random is a relatively minor one, as is the issue of users posting about events unrelated to free food currently available on campus.

“In [King Arthur Flour] just a few days ago a member of the GroupMe posted about free baked goods and within five minutes over 30 students had swarmed in and cleared it all out,” Link said.

Asha Pollydore ’17 was an original member of the GroupMe and had her doubts early on about its viability.

“When she first made it, it had the same people as were in another GroupMe so I thought that we didn’t need two GroupMe’s to post free food in. Also, I thought that this would be something that was useful week eight and onwards, but not so much earlier in the term when students still have a lot of DBA,” Pollydore said.

Pollydore said she changed her mind when the GroupMe reached 100 members and was surprised by the sheer amount of free food available on campus as the free food GroupMe became more active.

Referring to the GroupMe as the “People’s Food Liberation Front,” Taylor Watson ‘16 said he believes most students at Dartmouth find their meal plans do not last for a full term. Watson stressed the importance of the GroupMe’s focus on posting about food available in the present, rather than the blitzes that go out about free food at upcoming events.

In one instance, a member posted that free food would be available at a barbecue the following day. Another responded, “It’s called free food @now, not @tomorrow.” The offending member was swiftly removed.

However, Watson also said the GroupMe has, by increasing the awareness of free food on campus, made him more aware of the diverse set of events that take place at the College in addition to the food they offer.

Watson echoed Link’s sentiments concerning the GroupMe’s experience with trouble over Green Key weekend. After a group of individuals changed their usernames to variations on Link’s name, there were mass deletions of members. This required an appropriate response, one that Link said has made her, as the administrator, a disclipinarian of the group.

“I’ve become a sort of dictator ­— I’m not sure if that is good or bad,” said Link.

Watson has also taken part in deleting members who have abused the group’s large set of members.

“I have had to delete some of my own trippees, which was devastating,” said Watson.

Clifton Jeffery ’19 is a part of the GroupMe, but has never actually used it to get food before. Nevertheless, Jeffery said that just being a member has been a positive experience.

This was Link’s original intention, to at the very least make people more aware of just how much free food there is on any given day at Dartmouth. It is also why Link is concerned the GroupMe may decrease in membership over sophomore summer.

“It is a really inclusive group — all we want to do is make people aware of free food,” said Link. “I don’t know what will happen in the future.”

Currently, group membership is oscillating between 950 to 1050 members.