Eight hundred and ten Yale students accustomed to swiping cards for food chose to forgo the dining halls Thursday in order to raise money for those who can’t obtain meals as easily.
The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, or YHHAP, raised $6,500 for charity in sponsoring its bi-annual fast. Students who signed up for the Spring Fast transferred their meal plan’s daily costs to YHHAP, while other students chose to give cash donations. Of the $17 Yale students pay for three meals, $5.35 goes to YHHAP while the rest goes towards paying the dining hall and custodial staff.
This year’s Spring Fast marked the first time Aramark, Yale’s food service company, agreed to donate a 50 percent matching grant, raising the amount given to YHHAP from $5.35 to $8.00.
Still, this only represents a small percentage of the money Yale students pay each day.
“People think it’s ridiculous, but that’s what Aramark says the food is worth,” Spring Fast co-coordinator Swati Deshmukh ’06 said.
Deshmukh said Aramark’s matching grant is a large improvement over fundraising efforts for previous fasts.
The fast coordinators encouraged residential college solicitors to inform students about the matching grant when they were signing up. YHHAP co-coordinator Tara O’Donnell ’04 said she recognizes that often times, students do not know how much of their parents’ money is going to YHHAP when they sign up.
“We tell the volunteers to say only some percentage of the money goes to YHHAP, but it hasn’t soaked in,” O’Donnell said. “We don’t advertise it, but we definitely invite people to ask.”
YHHAP divides 100 percent of its earnings and donates it to 12 local charities, including Harmony Place, YHHAP food pantry, AIDS Project New Haven, and Doctors Without Borders.
Because the money is allocated to several charities, O’Donnell said the fast is mainly a symbolic gesture on the part of the students.
“$6,500 is a lot of money, but when you divide it up, it’s only $200 to some, and $800 to others,” O’Donnell said. “The fast was developed to give students the notion of not having food for a day.”
This year’s Spring Fast was also the first time students could sign up by the Yale Dining Services Web site. Online sign-up will continue to be available for future fasts.
Spring Fast co-coordinator Henri Benaim ’06 said he’d like to make the online sign-up more user-friendly for students. By implementing online sign-ups and obtaining Aramark’s matching grant, Benaim said YHHAP has shown students it is listening to them.
“We hope people respond to our proactive stance by supporting us” Benaim said.
Unlike past fasts, this spring’s event did not culminate with a free dinner for fast participants. Deshmukh said in past years, people who did not sign up came to the dinner and all the food instantly disappeared.
This year, the Student Campaign for Child Survival offered fasting students a $5 all-you-can-eat dinner at Dwight Hall. The dinner included donated food from New Haven restaurants, including Thai Pan Asian, Villa del Sol, BAR and Atticus. The money will go towards building a medical camp in rural India.
Annie Fang ’06, who was eating at Dwight Hall, said she forgot she had signed up for the fast until she received a reminder e-mail. She said she was eating Milano cookies all day.
“It was fine to sacrifice for a day, but obviously we are still eating, not so much reflecting,” Fang said.