When Maurice Ware ’20 delivers some of Yale Dining’s excess food to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen on weekends, he knows that he will be met by some familiar faces.
“There are a lot of regular clients that come in on Fridays and Saturdays that rely on the food [we serve],” said Ware, a project head for Yale Community Kitchen. “I think we do what we can to provide meals especially because it’s a unique time in the food system where there wouldn’t otherwise be food served in the downtown area.”
Yale Community Kitchen, formerly known as Hunger Heroes, — one of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project’s most popular projects — partners with the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen every Friday and Saturday night. DESK began serving meals to the neighborhood in 1987, serving meals Sunday to Thursday. As the demand for meals grew, YHHAP created the YCK in 2005 to aid in serving the community.
The program is part of YHHAP, founded in 1974 as a part of Dwight Hall to help solve the issues of hunger and homelessness in New Haven. Since then, this umbrella organization has grown to include various groups dedicated to aiding the homeless.
YHHAP groups are involved in a variety of services including food rescue, tax assistance, case management, youth mentorship, clothing donation and youth shelter.
“We have about 250 volunteers across twelve projects and have put in about 8,000 service hours last year,” said Nishanth Krishnan ’21, a coordinator of YHHAP. “We do a lot of work in disparate but interconnected [ways], in terms of our mission of helping people who suffer from food insecurity or homelessness and issues in between the two.”
One of YHHAP’s groups is the Restaurant Rescue Project, RRP, a food rescue group separate from the YCK program that aims to simultaneously address the problems of hunger and food waste. The group partners with restaurants around New Haven to collect their unused food and deliver it to halfway houses and soup kitchens. According to Renee Tung ’21, a coordinator for RRP, they have saved around 100 pounds of food this past week.
“Even though it’s a small time commitment, because we have so many volunteers, we are able to make a big impact,” Tung said. “Even a small effort from one person can have a big impact.”
Since its start in 2017, RRP has grown to include over 50 volunteers and has partnered with various restaurants in the city. Last semester, RRP saved 1616 pounds of food, according to Tung. According to the YHHAP website, over 5000 pounds of food have been donated or saved.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, VITA, is another one of YHHAP’s programs. VITA began as an Internal Revenue Service program in the ’70s aimed at providing tax preparation services to low income families. The Yale VITA group works six days a week during the spring and accommodates non-English speakers.
VITA, which now has 110 volunteers, served 1,607 households, helped refund $2.36 million and saved around $220,000 in tax preparation fees.
Since its founding, YHHAP has had an impact on the New Haven community. According to Krishnan, many volunteers with YHHAP, like Ware, have come to develop meaningful relationships.
“I think with every YHHAP project there’s a chance to meet and interact with people that you normally wouldn’t,” Krishnan said. “For instance, the people in New Haven that you wouldn’t normally see.”
13.9 percent of Connecticut residents and 22 percent of New Haven residents do not have consistent access to healthy food.
Kelly Wei | firstname.lastname@example.org