Yale students have the option to give up their dining hall meals next Thursday to benefit those more in need of food and other basic necessities.

Next Thursday, the student-led Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project will hold its twice-annual fast, a campus-wide fundraiser through which students opt out of meal swipes for a day and donate them to local, national and international aid organizations.

YHHAP co-coordinator Amy Wojnarwsky ’07 said the money collected from the meal swipes this year will go to nine charities. Benefiting organizations include the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen and Harmony Place, a community center run by a coalition of Yale students and New Haven homeless residents.

Wojnarwsky said YHHAP signed up over a thousand students for the 2005 spring semester fast. She attributed the level of participation largely to strong freshman involvement.

Co-coordinator David Tian ’07 said the fast has been a tradition on campus since 1974, donating roughly $5,000 to charity each semester.

“Yale students have been generally supportive of this opportunity to help the hungry and homeless,” he said. “Responsiveness is often linked to awareness, so YHHAP must make sure that students are informed of what the fast is and why they should participate.”

Tian said this year’s fast will be different from other years because YHHAP has replaced the traditional sign-up mechanism of taking student social security numbers at dinner with an online mechanism through the Yale Student Information Systems. Adjusting to sign ups without the tabling system has been difficult, Tian said.

But despite the tabling setbacks, he said, YHHAP’s goal this year is to have 1,300 students participate in the fast and raise over $6,500. To realize this goal, YHHAP has started a door-to-door canvassing campaign on Old Campus to encourage students to sing up for the fast on YSIS, Tian said.

Wojnarwsky said YHHAP is collaborating with 10 other student organizations on campus, including Alphi Phi Omega, Reach Out and Rotaract, to plan the fast. She said these organizations give YHHAP input on the allocation of the collected funds.

“The opportunity to work with other campus groups is one of the most valuable parts working for the fast,” Tian said.

Harmony Place coordinator Zachary Zwillinger ’07 said the community center is grateful for the fast, which he said raises most of its funding. He said the fast is a unique occasion to bring the student and homeless communities closer.

“It’s a great opportunity for the rest of the student body to become aware of issues that YHHAP deals with on a daily basis,” he said. “Working with and seeing homeless people reminds us that Yale isn’t alone in New Haven.”

YHHAP Treasurer Jane Levy ’08 said she is glad to see that the Yale student body is responsive to charitable efforts.

“The most rewarding part of the fast for me in the past few years is to see so many members of the Yale community help out at once,” she said.