table with Free Food sign and caption 'only eating free food for a day at Duke University' (l) student eating sandwich with caption 'but at least I didn't pay for it' (c) sandwich and salad on table with caption 'so I got a chicken pesto panini' (r)


‘Wait, your professor just caters food for everyone??’: Duke student only eats free food on campus because tuition is so expensive

'This school steals way too much money from me.'


Allyson Waller


Posted on Apr 4, 2023   Updated on Apr 4, 2023, 8:59 pm CDT

A student at Duke University is spotlighting just how savvy some college students have to be when it comes to accessing food, while also paying steep tuition among other expenses. 

In a TikTok video viewed more than 1 million times, user Allison Chen (@alchenny) chronicles the free food she ate in a day. 

“Only eating free food for a day at university because this school steals way too much money from me,” Chen said.  

@alchenny eat the rich. literally. #classof2027 #dininghall #collegestudent #whatieatinaday #freefood ♬ Blue Blood – Heinz Kiessling

She started off her morning with a free cinnamon roll and coffee from Panera that was available on campus. For lunch, one of her professors catered, and she ate a chicken pesto panini and a Caesar salad. 

The professor’s generosity shocked one commenter, who wrote, “Wait, your professor just [caters] food for everyone?” 

Chen replied that it was a special occasion. 

Throughout the rest of the day, she got an empanada from a graduate lunch she came across and she ate free desserts at a fashion show event. 

“And then I was studying in the library and there was literally a cart that said free food,” Chen said. “Yeah it was just a Panera turkey sandwich but at least I didn’t pay for it.” 

The Daily Dot reached out to Chen via Instagram direct message and is awaiting a response. 

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of food per month for a college student is about $667, and a campus meal plan can average $450 per month. The average monthly cost for groceries for college students in North Carolina, where Duke is located, is about $235. 

Duke’s undergraduate tuition for the 2023-2024 school year will be about $83,263, including “room, board and required fees for student health, recreation, activities and services,” according to its website. Duke University has not responded to the Daily Dot’s request for comment via email. 

Commenters, who largely seemed to be college students themselves, heavily related to Chen’s content.

“Free food just [tastes] better for some reason,” one commenter said. 

“Walk with tupperware,” another person said.

Meanwhile one user mentioned that unlike Duke, their school offers up something a little less tasty. 

“My school gives out free stress and pain,” they said.

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*First Published: Apr 4, 2023, 11:38 am CDT