Scavenger app helps students find free food on campus

Forgot to pack a lunch?

Ryerson students can now download an app that shows users where to find free food on campus.  

Developed by Aleksandar Basic, a fifth-year business technology management student, Scavenger launched Monday on the Apple App Store.

Ryerson community members with iPhones can use the app to post details about free food and scroll through campus freebies and local restaurant deals.

Business technology management student Aleksandar Basic created Scavenger, a free food locater app which helps students eat on campus without breaking the bank. (Photo by Spencer Turcotte)

“We’re all in the same boat here at Ryerson: we’re all commuting — for the most part — we’re broke, we live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada where it costs a lot to go out and even get downtown, let alone grab yourself a lunch,” the app developer said.

He added that students want to find cheap alternatives to McDonald’s.

Basic was one of the first students to join the Free Food Locator at Ryerson University (FFLRU) Facebook group. Basic collaborated with the FFLRU founder, his friend Kunal Variawa, when he started developing the app earlier this year.

“We all kind of want to look for better alternatives without spending a big buck and we all feel that as one big community, so having an app connects everyone in that sense and gives everyone a helping hand,” Basic said.  

When he saw the FFLRU group’s growth, Basic approached Variawa with his app idea in February.

The Facebook group started in January 2016. There are now almost 4,000 members.

Basic said he’s not competing with FFLRU, but rather offering another platform for students to find free food. He said both platforms will have similar postings that are crowd-sourced.

To sign-up, users must be students with valid university emails.

The app is only available on iOS platforms right now, though Basic said he wants to create an Android version.

He said it’s important that the app’s strictly for students, because the culture created on FFLRU only works since students help each other out.

Variawa, a first-year criminology masters student who created the FFLRU group during his undergrad at Ryerson, said he’s happy Basic worked on the app this summer.

“An app will be very popular because it’s a lot more convenient for students to use, all they need to do is just download the app and keep the notifications on, and they can find out wherever the free food on campus is,” he said.

Variawa created the original Facebook platform because he noticed there was always free food at Ryerson. He thought students needed a centralized page to address the giveaways.

Students like Jade West, who’s in her second-year in accounting and finance at Ryerson, frequently uses the group to monitor free postings on campus.

West posted a photo of fried rice and other platters on Nov. 3 to inform students there was free food in the Student Campus Centre.

“I’ll probably download (Scavenger) to see what it’s like, but if people aren’t really using it or if Facebook is more popular then I’ll delete it,” she wrote in an e-mail.   

She’s gotten free food including salads, ice cream and cookies thanks to people posting in the Facebook group.

“The app’s goal is to connect all Ryerson students,” Basic said. “Long-term goal is to connect all students Canada-wide.”

He said “the app scales well,” so students from other universities can use it to find free food close to them.

“It’s not exclusive to Ryerson students but what is cool about it is, if you login as a Ryerson student, you only see what Ryerson students post.”

Another way hungry students can find food at Ryerson is by visiting the Good Food Centre.

The centre, located on the second floor of the SCC, offers emergency food relief. It’s run by students like Kimberley Vaz, who’s in her third-year in Ryerson’s social work program.   

Vaz, a co-ordinator at the centre, said she sees the FFLRU’s social media crowd-sharing structure as a type of “community care.”

“Most of us have smartphones and so I think having some kind of app will really help other students connect with each other to find free-ish food on campus, which is really important,” she said.

While she said the app and centre aren’t sustainable solutions to food insecurity at Ryerson, she thinks “it’s a way to navigate how we take care of ourselves.”  

Vaz said apps like Scavenger are the futuristic way to address social issues.

“The administration should be more open to hearing these things, and providing funding opportunities and remuneration opportunities and supports for student-led initiatives, because truly truly amazing things come out of those ideas, like this app, like the Good Food Centre,” she said.  

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