Ishai Eshkol’s editorial (“Getting shortchanged by the YHHAP Fast,” 4/25) fails to understand the principles behind Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project’s primary fund-raiser and misrepresents the tactics used by YHHAP in encouraging students to participate in the Fast. Eshkol questions the integrity of an organization that, for over 25 years, has dedicated itself to combating hunger and homelessness in New Haven and beyond.
The goal of the YHHAP fast is to raise money for local, national and international charities that work to combat hunger and homelessness, as well as to raise students’ awareness of poverty. This past semester, the fast raised almost $7,000, all of which went to organizations that fight hunger in a variety of ways, including New Haven’s Community Soup Kitchen, Columbus House Shelter, Food First, and the International Development Exchange.
In addition, the money raised from the Fast serves as the sole source of funding for the Dwight neighborhood’s only food pantry and Harmony Place, the only community center for New Haven’s homeless that is open during the day. Both of these projects are sponsored and run solely by YHHAP.
YHHAP does everything in its power to raise as much money as possible for these worthy charities. But YHHAP does not obscure or misrepresent the facts.
This past semester, students on the unlimited, 21-, and 14-meal plans donated $5.41 to YHHAP when they fasted on April 16. Students on the 10-meal plan donated $4.91. YHHAP is proud that so many students support our efforts by fasting and seeks to answer questions that those who fast might have. YHHAP does not employ deceitful tactics to trick people into donating. Most students have not expressed concern about how much money the dining hall actually gives to YHHAP. However, if students do ask, they are given a truthful and accurate response.
As the e-mail record shows, Eshkol asked me how YHHAP uses the Fast money, not how much money the dining halls give to the group, and his confusion is unfortunate. I truthfully stated that YHHAP uses all the money they receive to fund charities and projects. And contrary to Eshkol’s claim, YHHAP in fact encourages students to bursar bill donations for the very reason that YHHAP will raise more money if they do.
Clearly, the amount of money that YHHAP receives from Aramark is inadequate. If Eshkol contacted the current coordinators, he would learn that for the past two years, YHHAP has been working to increase the amount of money we receive. As a result of our efforts, this figure has increased from $4.04 in the fall of 2000 to $5.41 this spring. Still, that YHHAP only receives a small amount of the money spent on students’ meals is regrettable and an issue that we will continue to address.
Eshkol, however, misses the point when he attacks the Fast for its economic inefficiency. That YHHAP only receives $5.41 per student per day is unfortunate, but it is unfortunate only because more can be raised to aid in the cause of ending hunger and homelessness. We cannot take responsibility for Aramark’s actions. We can only encourage students to continue to take part in an effort that seeks to join in the worldwide fight against hunger.
By realizing the inconvenience of purchasing their meals for a day, students will come to realize the hardship of not having three meals a day provided for them. Eshkol’s concern that students who participate in the Fast spend money to eat on the day of the Fast becomes inconsequential when one considers the hundreds of poor who live in New Haven and have to face that monetary reality every day. Hopefully, he will use the experience to recommit himself to the fight against hunger and homelessness in which we are all engaged.
In 1995, the YHHAP Fast raised $17,000 as students came together in an attempt to not only raise money but to unite and take a symbolic stand against poverty. It is the goal of YHHAP to revive that action and awareness. Aramark’s choice to decrease the amount of funds YHHAP receives should only encourage us to demand more from them. And no matter what, we cannot let Aramark’s choice prevent us from all joining together in an effort to combat the poverty that plagues New Haven, the nation and the world.
Benita Singh is a sophomore in Branford College. She is a co-coordinator of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project.