This page was inspired by a poor soul in Safeway that was buying a tiny package of rosemary, when unbeknownst to her, there was rosemary growing out in the parking lot and all over town. Description to come soon, (anyone want to take a stab at it?) Also see Dumpster Diving.

Free Food

  • CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) - For qualified low-income individuals and families.
  • The Pantry is a food bank located in the basement of Freeborn Hall that gives away free food to UC Davis students in need. The program is supported by donations and volunteers.
  • Evaluating Grain Products Study— Another way to get food is by participating in studies like this one, where food is given out free!
  • free.go: a food sharing mechanism happening in Davis. Public sharing refrigerators. Take what you want, leave what you don't. free.go#1 installed at 812 Douglass avenue. free.go has been described as "Illegal food distribution" by the Yolo county health inspectors. According to them, food sharing is a bad thing even though it's sustainable and makes people happier (citation needed). They also affirmed that food waste generates more profits and jobs in the food distribution industry, and therefore should not be prevented (citation needed). See free.go's inventory here
    • I'm all for reducing food waste here, but given that the Health Department has ruled it illegal (regardless of thier intent), how safe is this food?
      • Most of the food shared in the fridge is non-perishable, like canned vegetables, canned juice, candies, packed cereals, uncooked pasta, tea bags, coffee, etc. There are also some perishable items being shared, but they normally don't stay long. Products with higher contamination risks such as fresh meat are rare. Inhabitants of the house where the fridge is installed perform regular safety checks on the fridge, at least twice a day. They look for expired items and items that look "suspicious". The fridge is cleaned at least once a week. The risk of food contamination is therefore low, but of course not zero. Up to date there is no evidence that the risk of contamination of a shared fridge is higher than when eating a fruit from a tree in the street or any other public place (see Fruit Trees). Because we always need to think about the worst, one might wonder "what if someone put some poison in there?". Well this could be considered a crime or a terrorist act. Up to date there is no evidence that a crime or terrorist act is more likely to happen in a shared fridge than elsewhere in Davis (see Crime). Unfortunately there is no way to make sure that this food is 100% safe, like there is no way to make sure that crossing a street is 100% safe (The problem of being alive is that you can die at any moment)
      • According to Yolo Health Inspectors free.go is condemned because of the "Risk of food contamination given lack of surveillance". They state that free.go has no "permit to operate" and that "No permit can be issued". free.go violates the "California Food Retail Code" (even if it doesn't sell any food).

Free Meals

Also see Homeless Resources.

Free Fruit

Davis is an agricultural town, with a lot of fruit trees and edible landscaping in town and all over the UC Davis campus. Here's where to look.

  • Visit here for a google map of fruit trees in Davis. The map is public and collaborative, so please add trees if you know of their locations. (You must have a google sign-in.) Use push-pins to mark the locations of trees. If the tree is on private property, please indicate that in the note, and only mark it after getting permission from the owner first.
  • Someone may have some Surplus produce to offer to drop off. Or you may be able to offer to pick some up.
  • Figs - Grows in several places. A couple small trees behind the Vegetable Crops greenhouse off of Hutchison on campus. Also, there are a few trees between Olson Hall and Voorhies Hall. (The tree above the bike racks at the Davis Food Co-op is a fig tree, but the City insisted it's fruit be sterile, so that a ripe fig would never drop on a parked car.)
  • Berries - Blackberries grow in many of the wilder areas around the edge of town. Probably other berries, too. The little strawberries you'll commonly see growing around downtown are decorative. They may or may not be poisonous, but regardless, they don't taste good and aren't worth picking.
  • Sort of free - although you have to pay for your final basketful of fruit forage at Impossible Acres, you can eat while you pick. Until they start weighing people before and after they go picking, stomached fruits carry a price equal to only the amount of time you'll spend being shunned by local people who don't think you should steal from small, local family farms.
  • There are apple trees along segments of the South Davis Bike Path. There is also an apple tree that hangs over the fence at the southwest entrance to Slide Hill Park, which produces lots of felled fruit.
  • There is at least one grape vine on the fence alongside the Russell bike path west of the main campus, as well as other places around town.
  • Tons of delicious golden seedless grapes hanging over the east-bound bike lane on Covell, right past Covell & Sycamore. Ripe in late September.
  • Road tomatoes are free in the summer months. These are tomatoes that fall off the tomato trucks while in transport. Usually plentiful around on/off ramps, and at bends on county roads.
  • The loquat trees in the south courtyard of Cruess Hall - fruit seasonally around late spring.
  • The J Street Co-op has some fruit trees (plums, kumquats, cherries, figs, persimmons and apricots). Feel free to taste whatever is ripe but please don't take lots since the residents like to eat fruit too.
  • Pomegranate trees line the rear parking lot at Chaparral Apartments in north Davis - fruit seasonally around September.
  • There's a few pomegranate trees with complementary pavement for cracking the things on the Covell Greenbelt.
  • Cook the pomegranates with recipes from Pomegranate World.
  • The apricot trees between the Chemistry Building and Everson Hall - fruit seasonally around late spring.
  • An orange tree has fruit year-round just south of Parking Lot 10 (intersection of A St. & Hutchison Dr.). To get the fruit in the winter, you may have to do some tree climbing.
  • The Prickly Pear cactus has edible branches/pads (called nopales) as well as an edible fruit in the summer (the "pear"). Don't take too many nopales, as these cacti grow very slowly. Be sure to watch out for tiny, hair-thin barbed thorns. (Use two forks to pluck these fruit without turning your hand into a pincushion.) They're found in the Arboretum, behind Walker Hall, and at Cactus Corner.
  • Ornamental plum trees are common and easy to spot with their dark purple leaves and bark. When ripe in the late spring/early summer they are rather tasty. It takes a little patience to spot purple fruit against a backdrop of purple leaves and branches.
    • There's a row of ornamental plums along the west side of F Street between 8th and 9th Streets.
  • For students taking Plant Biology 143 - Evolution of Crop Plants, a free "Crop of the Day" starts off every class meeting.
  • Many university departments, especially Pomology, Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry, and others dealing with plants, have copious amounts of plants that have been used in research experiments. These are usually safe for human consumption, and often go home with University employees or go bad. If you get in good with a professor or TA, (s)he might be able to hook you up.
  • Walnut trees grow on the west side of Birch Lane School, on the road-side of the staff parking lot. Don't go between 8am and 3:30 on weekdays- you might agitate the administration by being an "intruder on campus".

Free Herbs

Many herbs can be found in the herb garden inside the Student Experimental Farm, they are free to pick but please make sure the plants will survive.

  • California Bay - a spice often used in corned beef and mulling spices, leaves from this tree have a powerful flavor and aroma. The Arboretum at UC Davis has bay trees growing there. (Location, anyone?)
  • The Student Experimental Farm features an culinary and medicinal herb garden, complemented by a few fruit trees.
  • Peppermint - Great for tea and mint juleps, this plant grows wild in the EC Gardens. Want to grow your own? Pull a stalk with roots attached and transplant - it's practically a voracious weed.
  • Rosemary - this plant is so ubiquitous as landscaping it's not even funny. But for good quality stuff, try the EC Gardens, where it grows tall and wild.
  • Spearmint - Great for tea, seasoning lamb, and garnishes, find it growing wild in the EC Gardens. Grows most prolifically near water spigots.
  • Lavender - Good for tea, potpourri/essential oils, decoration. There is a huge bush with plenty of surplus at the EC Gardens, and several bushes in the Arboretum.

Other Free Edible Plant and Plant-like Material

  • Walnut trees grow all over Davis. They look like golf ball sized green balls, not the walnuts you find in the store. This is the outer husk, which needs to be peeled off (and stains like crazy!).
  • Many roads such as Russell Blvd are lined with Olive trees, which frequently fall to the ground and pop under bike tires. Olives on the UC Davis campus are pressed to make olive oil, rather than just have the groundskeepers dump them.
  • Many varieties of edible Mushrooms grow around Davis, especially in wooded areas. The shaggy mane mushroom, Coprinus comatus, is particularly delicious deep fried in egg batter and bread crumbs. They are said to be seen around the rec pool and Plant and Environmental Sciences Building after some rains. I'd advise staying away from the white mushrooms that look like button mushrooms. Although Agaricus campestris and Agaricus bitorquis are delicious wild species, mother nature decided to toss in the mildly poisonous Agaricus californicus on the west coast, just to annoy us. Make absolutely sure you know what you're looking for before eating any, since mushrooms can be very poisonous.
  • Between the Chemistry Building and Everson Hall, one can find a chestnut tree.

Free Beverages

  • See Free Beer
  • At The Avid Reader, occasionally you can get free, small cups of coffee - probably just a winter thing.
  • Free coffee can be found at Trader Joe's and both free coffee and Tea can be found at Cost Plus

Free Prepared Food

  • Around 2pm, check out the little coffee bar at the MU bus station. They close around 3pm, and tend to dispense free coffee and bagels a little bit before then. Especially if JillBenciWoodward is working that day.
    • Is that what that thing is? I've never seen it open in my two years at UCD.
  • Free breadsticks at Cenario's Pizza. Limit one per day using this coupon.
  • Graduate Student Association has free bagels, donuts, fruit and orange juice every Friday for graduate students at their office near the Silo. You're supposed to be a graduate student, but I don't think they actually check although undergrads might stick out due to their ability to talk to normal people and lack of dark circles under their eyes. GSA also hosts happy hours on the last Thursday of every month. These have free food, but sometimes they're so crowded it's just not worth it.
  • Attending lectures and seminars will often get you free food. I once went to a talk on wine that involved free tastings.
  • Art show opening receptions tend to have all sorts of free snacks.
  • Guadalajaras has FREE tortilla chips and salsa! Go with a friend who is buying something so you don't come off as a complete cheapskate.
  • The food science department often has free taste testings where they ask you deep and meaningful questions about the texture of a cookie.

Free Samples

Many places offer free samples. While this may not be quite enough for a full meal, it can still be fun to grab a nice bite of something tasty.


On campus:


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