When UCLA students move into off-campus housing in Westwood or are simply on campus for the day, one of the biggest dilemmas they face is finding affordable and kosher food options. As a junior at UCLA, I have explored the many different Jewish organizations and, at times, have spent days subsisting off the many free food options available. This article will help you to find ways to score some free food on campus, too.
Let us start with breakfast. It is a little known fact that every morning, there is free breakfast at Hillel for those who attend prayer services at 8:30 AM. Not only is the food free, but the breakfast also consists of protein-rich foods like bagel-egg sandwiches. Hillel now provides tomatoes and mushrooms to make omelet sandwiches. If you have a sweet-tooth, the so called “Breakfast Club” also provides waffles and cereal. To sweeten the deal even further, rides are provided from the apartments to Hillel so you do not have to walk to campus in the morning. It truly is an optimal way to start your morning. For more information, please reach out to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan of the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at UCLA (JLIC) or Asher Naghi, JLIC’s sexton.
Let us move on to lunch. On Mondays from 1-2 p.m., JLIC holds Nooshe Joon at Hillel, during which Rabbi Aryeh and Sharona Kaplan lecture on unique Jewish topics. On Tuesdays, the Jewish Awareness Movement (JAM) holds bagel breaks at Kerckhoff Patio from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. There, you can hang out, meet JAM’s rabbi, Naftali Hanfling, and get your bagel with schmear. On Fridays, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., there is JewQ at Hillel, led by Rabbi Kaplan and Mr. Hillel Emeritus Ariel Azdham. The two of them are available to answer any questions you may have about Judaism.
Next, we have dinner. There are two completely free, no-strings-attached dinner options available during the week. Wednesday nights, from 8-11 p.m., there is challah baking at JAM. Dinner is always provided, and you can typically count on there being toppings like sprinkles and chocolate chips to decorate your challah. Thursday nights, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., there is Parsha and Pizza on the second floor of Hillel. Each week, Hillel hosts a different rabbi who will lecture about the parsha. Meanwhile, students can get their grub on with the famous Mexican pizza, which features toppings such as avocado, beans, and hot peppers.
Then, there are the slightly more exclusive dinners. However, they are still fairly easy to gain access to. On Tuesday nights, JAM holds its weekly MIX Seminar, during which one of the Hanflings or a guest speaker will help you explore and learn more about life and Judaism.
Hillel, too, provides multiple fellowships with free meals included. On Tuesday evenings, Hillel hosts the Jewish Learning Fellowship: Judaism as Art. On Thursdays, lunch is also served at Hillel’s Social Justice Fellowship meetings. On Thursday nights, dinner is served for members of the Jewish Learning Fellowship: Life’s Big Questions and the Israel Learning Fellowship. You must apply for these programs, but Hillel leaders generally try to admit as many students as they can. Chabad at UCLA holds a course on the Six-Day War on Thursday evenings, dinner included. For more information on joining, please reach out to Rabbi Dovid Gurevich.
Then, we get to Shabbat, which, if you are looking for kosher meals on campus, is perhaps the best time to be a Jew at UCLA. Friday night Shabbat dinners are offered at three different locations: JAM, Chabad, and Hillel. Each spot has its strengths and weaknesses, but it is possible to go for the sweep and make it to all three on Friday nights. There is Saturday lunch at Hillel and Chabad, but there is usually a larger student contingent at Hillel for this meal. Shabbat ends with Seudah Shlishit, the third Shabbat meal, which is often served at the Bayit, the Jewish co-op at UCLA.
In addition to these weekly offerings, there are also unique events throughout the quarter that incentivize student attendance with free food. Hillel student groups, such as Bruins for Israel, and organizations like the Students Supporting Israel at UCLA and J Street at UCLA often have events with food. If you are in the mood for a free snack, Hillel offers your weekly fix at Janss Steps on Mondays from 12-2 p.m. Moreover, you may also come across random Jewish learning opportunities throughout the week at Hillel that include hot kosher meals. Additionally, there are times when leftover food from Hillel meetings makes its way down to the first floor of the building for students. So, if you hang around long enough, you are sure to find something to eat.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to score free kosher food at UCLA. You can contact Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan to learn more about JLIC events, Danielle Natelson for general Hillel happenings, Rabbi Naftali Hanfling for JAM updates, Rabbi Dovid Gurevich for Chabad at UCLA happenings, or any student leaders belonging to one or more of these organizations. And, of course, feel free to contact me with any questions. Many of these events remain the same in terms of time and content from quarter to quarter, but be sure to check back in with Ha’am during the fall to see what sorts of free meals you can score on campus.