Dining halls were noticeably less crowded Thursday, as 2,050 students “fasted” and donated their swipes for charity — but some raised concerns about the inefficiency of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project’s fundraising.
The twice-annual YHHAP fast and fundraising from local businesses raised in excess of $16,000 — the most in recent memory, said YHHAP co-director Gabriel Zucker ’12. All proceeds will go to Life Haven and New Haven Home Recovery, two local organizations that provide shelter and support to homeless women and children. The fast came under scrutiny this week following an Oct. 20 op-ed in the News that pointed out that while the Full Meal Plan costs $2,600 per semester for 21 meals a week — equivalent to approximately $24 a day — Yale Dining would pass on only $7.50 of that to charity, based on data from last spring’s fast.
While Zucker admitted that the fast is not the most efficient of fundraisers, he said that students’ meal swipes pay for more than just food. They also cover fixed costs including employee wages, he said, adding that he saw no other way for YHHAP to raise large sums of money aside from the fast. Jessica Cole ’12, a co-director of the fast, said that the money Yale Dining donated represents the cost of the food that would have been purchased for students who fasted.
“If you ask people for cash when they walk into the dining halls, for the most part, they don’t want to give any,” he said. “With the fast it’s really easy to contribute.”
Yale Dining Executive Director Rafi Taherian did not respond to requests for comment.
Kellyann Day, executive director of New Haven Home Recovery, one of the two organizations YHHAP is supporting through the fast, said her organization was particularly appreciative of YHHAP’s support. The City of New Haven cut New Haven Home Recovery’s budget by 22 percent earlier this year, Day said.
Day said she did not know enough about Yale Dining’s donation policies to comment.
Jacquelyn Pheanious, executive director of Life Haven, the other organization YHHAP is donating to, said she understood Yale Dining’s situation as the director of an agency that also has “fixed costs.”
“The amount of money is not what I focus on,” she said. “What matters is that students are willing to give up any portion of their meal.”
Eight of ten students interviewed said they appreciated YHHAP’s intentions in holding the fast, though some expressed concerns about the amount of money Yale Dining passed on to YHHAP.
Patrick Toth ’14, who participated in the fast, said he would have done so regardless of how much of his money actually went to charity.
“I think it’s important that we at Yale do more to help the homeless,” he said. “While the fast may not be incredibly efficient, it’s a good gesture to show our solidarity.”
Carl Sandberg ’14 said that while he supports YHHAP’s intentions, he did not participate. Sandberg said he would rather donate $7.50 to charity than give up $24 worth of dining hall meals.
Jeremy Weltmer ’13 said he did not participate because he felt the fast fostered the wrong attitude toward charity.
“It reinforces that groupthink, instead of individual action, is the way to address wrongs,” he said. Weltmer added that if students donated the money spent at local restaurants to charity instead, they would have a much more significant impact.
Other students participating in the fast said they saw it as an opportunity to dine out while still making a difference for those in need.
Cole said that she would be leading a group to Louis’ Lunch as part of the New Haven Field Trip Society. Cole said she would eat dinner at one of the YHHAP-arranged study breaks taking place in every residential college except Berkeley.
Ten local restaurants and food vendors, including the Four Flours Cookie Truck, Claire’s Corner Copia and Bulldog Burrito, contributed $2,325 for the charities, said YHHAP fundraising director Matthew Bedrick ’12.