Food carts on York Street and the restaurants surrounding the University’s campus got a few more patrons than usual Thursday, as some Yale students sacrificed their meal plans to the benefit of New Haven’s homeless community.
The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project holds one “fast” each semester, during which Yale students donate one day of their meal plan to a number of charities chosen by the fast organizers. Despite a high level of student support for the fasts, which net between $4,000 and $5,000 each semester, the money raised has fallen in recent years due to decreases in the cost of food, which is the only portion of a student’s meal plan money that actually goes to YHHAP.
Magni Hamso ’05, the co-coordinator of YHHAP, said although the decreased funding is disappointing, participation remains high and the fast remains an important part of YHHAP’s mission.
“The fast is one of the biggest fundraisers that YHHAP has,” Hamso said. “It’s not so much a fundraiser for YHHAP, as the money we raise gets donated to different charities.”
This year, the recipients of the fast’s money will include Fellowship Place — a local center for helping people with severe mental illness or a history of substance abuse learn social and vocational skills — the Measles Initiative, Care International, and DESK. YHHAP money also goes to fund the project’s own Harmony Place, a community center for area homeless people operated by Yale students and New Haven residents.
Hamso said some participants in the fast find it disconcerting to learn the amount of money that goes from their meal plans to the fast is comparatively small.
“The reason the Yale Meal Plan is so expensive is that there are so many dining halls that they have to keep open,” Hamso said. “What we get is the cost of food, and people are often surprised at how little that is — it’s around $5. — That’s something that frustrates us, and it frustrates students, but it’s still a wonderful fund-raiser.”
Yale Dining Services evaluated the cost of food Thursday, the day of the fast, at around $4.95 per person.
Some student participants in the fast said they felt it provided them with a good, simple way to reach out to the community.
“I don’t know that much about the organization, but it seems like a good organization, and kind of the least I can do,” Emily Chakwin ’06 said. “The cause comes to you rather than [you] having to seek out a way to do something good.”
Alissa Stollwerk ’06 said she was taking the evening to make herself some spaghetti, although many of her friends use the fast as an excuse to eat a good pre-vacation farewell dinner together.
“I think it adds an extra layer of meaning to the fast that I’m not going out and spending money and eating nice fancy dinners, but that I’m cutting corners and eating less than I normally would,” Stollwerk said.
A significant portion of fast participants shared the opinion Daniel Sussman ’07 expressed as he purchased his dinner from the Indochine Pavillion cart Thursday evening.
“The food [is] going to an important place — I’m easily able to cover myself for one day, and there are some people that aren’t,” Sussman said.