App advertising free food reaches out to struggling students

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Michaela Proctor
Matthew Fredrickson gets bacon at a free-food event advertised on Lunchbox. (Michaela Proctor)

Two BYU students developed the Lunchbox app in 2013 as a fun way to let students know about free food on campus, but four years later they are making a greater impact than they ever foresaw, according to Jeffrey Dean, an accounting major at Utah Valley University.

“What started off as kind of a silly idea has turned into something that actually helps and benefits starving college students,” Dean said. “It’s the idea of doing more than just showing people where they can find free cookies now and then, but to actually be helping students in need is kind of an exciting step we are taking.”

Lunchbox is a free app for iOS. It creates a platform for clubs and groups on campus to advertise their meetings and let other students know where they can get free food. The app began with Chase Roberts and David Hepworth, both BYU students who enjoyed free food on campus. Now they have added to the team Dean and Trevor Renshaw, a computer science major at BYU.

The app has provided a platform for 1,666 free food events and has expanded from BYU to BYU-I, University of Utah, Utah Valley University and Utah State University.

Dean said Lunchbox’s next step is to expand to Southern Utah University. He said they are specifically working with the department that focuses on helping students without resources to cover the costs of food.

Renshaw said they are currently updating the app to make it more user-friendly and intuitive for students to both post and view free food events. He said they are working on automating it so they can expand to more schools and help more students.

BYU student Ashley Sullenger said she first heard about the app from her roommate. She used the Lunchbox app and received a ton of free food, such as cinnamon rolls, ice cream and Cafe Rio meals. Sullenger said she learned about many clubs on campus from their posts on Lunchbox.

Sullenger said the Lunchbox app motivates her to be social because she knows she will have free food by attending these events.

Dean said the app reaches 10,000 active BYU students, and the team hopes to expand to schools all over the country as it updates the app.

The more we can expand, the more schools we can get out to, the more people we can help,” Dean said.