Students prepare for YHHAP fast

Yale students will have the option to forfeit their dining hall meals next Thursday as part of the twice-annual Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project Fast to benefit the less fortunate in the New Haven community.

Various student organizations are teaming up with YHHAP to encourage meal-card holders to give up their swipes for a day in support of various causes, such as providing shelter for the homeless and combating human trafficking. Student organization leaders said they expect the fast, which has been held for the last 33 years, to raise more money than it has in the past due to the event’s increased prominence on campus. But some students said much could still be done to improve the fundraising process.

YHHAP co-coordinator Jane Levy ’08 said the organization aims to sign up at least 1,300 participants for the fast, which would top last semester’s effort by 200 swipes. Levy said one of the goals of the fast is to make students more conscious about issues facing those beyond Yale’s borders.

“This is a way for the Yale community to come together and not only raise money for charity, but also raise awareness about local problems of hunger and homelessness,” she said.

Under an agreement with Yale Dining Services, students donate the cost of food from their meal swipes, which does not include service expenses. Dining Services declined to comment on the exact value of each meal.

Levy said several student groups not usually affiliated with YHHAP — including the Asian American Students Alliance, the Roosevelt Institution and Yale AIDS Watch — have decided to help with the fast. Not only does each group have opportunity to pick a charity to support, Levy said, but the effort also gives them a chance to collaborate with each other.

“The fast gives groups that don’t normally interact a chance to work together,” Levy said. “More people get excited about it because it is beneficial to several groups, which makes for a better event.”

YHHAP encountered a few technical problems last year, including a computer glitch that automatically signed up students who had volunteered for the fast in the spring of 2005 for the fall fast as well. The problem was fixed before last year’s fast occurred, Levy said, but the error “probably helped” boost the number of participants that semester.

Some students said the way in which YHHAP procures volunteers for the fast could be improved.

Eliza Schafler ’09, who helps recruit volunteers for the fast as a member of National Student Partnerships, said YHHAP allocates proceeds to partner organizations based on a competitive system. The amount of money donated to each charity is proportional to the number of hours that each sponsoring organization spends soliciting participants in the dining halls, she said.

Schafler said this system sometimes creates “misunderstandings” and conflict between these organizations and the ones that operate under YHHAP and receive funding regardless of how many hours they work.

“But competition can be a good thing because it drives people to raise more money,” she said.

Eliza Berman ’07 said she thinks less than half of the undergraduate population participate in the event because students living off campus do not hold a meal card, and others may not have money on hand to buy food on the day of the fast. The sign-up process for the event is posted on Student Information Services online, and Berman said she hopes the University will take on a bigger role in publicizing the fundraiser in the future.

“It would be great if [the administration] had gotten more involved,” she said. “School-sponsored events almost always get a better turnout.”

Christine Nguyen ’09, AASA’s community outreach co-chair, said the group has noticed greater interest in the fast this semester while helping recruit volunteers from the dining halls. She said AASA plans to donate its share of profits from the fast to Justice for Children International, an organization that works to combat child trafficking.

As the finale of its human trafficking awareness week, AASA is hosting its second-annual Pan-Asian dinner in Dwight Hall as an alternative meal for students participating in the fast. Proceeds of the event will be donated to a shelter for survivors of human trafficking.

Other non-profit organizations that will benefit from the YHHAP fast include the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Rhodopian Orphanage, Fellowship Place — New Haven’s community-based mental health organization ­­— and Gardens for Health International, which provides sustainable nutritional independence for HIV-positive women.

In the fall of 2005, the YHHAP fast yielded over $8,000.

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