Jakub Madej

Students will have the opportunity this Friday to donate meal swipes to benefit New Haven’s homeless population, as part of the Yale Hunger and Homeless Action Project’s biannual fast.

YHHAP is partnering with Yale Dining to organize this semester’s fast, which allows students to donate a portion of the value of their meal swipes to New Haven organizations that combat homelessness. Local businesses — this year, Claire’s Corner Copia and Brick Oven Pizza — also contribute to YHHAP’s chosen organizations for the fast, trading upfront donations for advertising space on YHHAP’s mailings.

Fast Coordinator Aidan Pillard ’20 encouraged all students to consider donating their swipes to the cause.

“It’s one of the easiest ways for Yalies to get involved and support the surrounding community,” Pillard said of the fast.

Although the exact amount of money donated per student varies according to the student’s meal plan, approximately $10 per student goes toward the causes supported by the fast, according to Pillard. He said that that figure is “a little bit lower than [YHHAP] would like” and that he is trying to renegotiate with Yale Dining. Still, he acknowledged, it is “understandable” that the full cost of the dining swipes doesn’t go toward the program, because money needs to be left aside to pay those who work in the dining halls on Friday and to cover the dining halls’ other operational costs.

Last spring’s fast raised about $10,000, according to Pillard.

Since students can still eat off-campus or use guest swipes in dining halls, Pillard called the event a “misnomer” and said YHHAP has considered changing the name. He sees the fast as an opportunity to “harvest unused guest swipes” and “redirect what would be waste at Yale to be useful and lifesaving.”

Proceeds from fasts in recent years have helped fund rapid re-housing programs. Serena Tharaken ’18, executive director of YHHAP and former fast coordinator, said the YHHAP board is “often thinking” about and re-evaluating how to donate fast proceeds to best serve New Haven’s homeless. Theraken called last week’s homeless march in New Haven an important opportunity for further reflection.

“[The march] was a really wonderful time to sit down with members of the homeless community and talk about what their needs really are,” she said.

Tharakan added that YHHAP has been working with advocates for the homeless, such as Jesse Hardy, founder of Jesse’s Homeless Outreach Project, to brainstorm ways to better serve the New Haven homeless community.

Although many students interviewed said they would participate in the fast, some said they had not previously heard of it. Even fewer said they understood how it worked.

Lily Dodd ’21 had not heard of the fast before speaking with the News but said it seemed like a “cool communal participation” opportunity. Emily Slaughter ’21, another student who had never heard of the fast, said she thought that it would be better if “it wasn’t just a one-time thing.”

Kushal Dev ’20 remembered seeing tables and signs for the fast in past semesters but said he did not know how the program works or how to sign up for it.

According to Tharakan, YHHAP is trying to improve its outreach to the student body through tabling, social media and word-of-mouth. Tharakan herself discovered YHHAP by talking to a volunteer at a table for the fast during her first year at Yale. She said she hopes the fast will encourage students to get involved with YHHAP after the fast.

More than 1,300 students participated in the YHHAP fast last spring.

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu

Correction, Nov. 6: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the proceeds from the YHHAP fasts have helped fund shelters. In fact, the proceeds were used to fund rapid re-housing programs.

Asha Prihar served as managing editor of the News during the 2019-20 academic year. Before that, she covered community service, Yale's professional schools and undergraduate student life as a staff reporter. She is a senior in Silliman College studying political science.