Hoya Hub Addresses Food Insecurity on Campus

The Hoya Hub, opened in October 2018, works to provide a safe and sustainable space for Georgetown students to access food resources by running a food pantry stocked with nonperishable food items in the Leavey Center. Its mission states that the organization, which is student-run, serves to mitigate the physical and psychological effects of food insecurity on Georgetown campus. The Hoya Hub strives to maintain a clean, flexible, and functional system to ensure that every student feels comfortable reaching out. According to the definition provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization, food insecurity is “a situation that exists when people lack stable and secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active healthy life.” In the case of school campus, some possible causes for food insecurity could be accessibility, location, hours of operation, and cost.

The way the Hoya Hub functions is that a student in need of the service fills out an application that asks for a brief statement on the applicant’s experience with food insecurity or hunger. The application does not include the disclosure of any financial statements, because the organization believes income does not always tell the whole story. The Hoya Hub wants to use all the information gathered through the application for general research purposes in order to have a better understanding of the root causes of food insecurity on campus and eventually address the systemic cause. For those who are unsure whether they qualify for the service offered, they can send the Hoya Hub an anonymous message to ask further questions.

To clarify how the Hoya Hub aims to reduce the stigma associated with food security, Julianne Licamele, Hoya Hub’s Director of Outreach, explained it was initially very difficult to imagine that Georgetown students could possibly be experiencing food security. She stated, “The stigma lies with the idea that a Georgetown students is an affluent student who can be afford to live here. This is not reality. Many Georgetown students are just scraping by ad any financial setback can prevent them from affording the food they need.” She also noted that there could be a social stigma for accessing the food pantry itself, because it may feel as though an admission to others that an individual is not what people thought him or her to be. The Hoya Hub actively works to reduce this social stigma by keeping all services anonymous. The application process is a self-defined process in that if the student thinks they need the service they can anonymously apply without being told by anyone that such choice does not fit to the stereotypically affluent university. “We also work to inform people that food insecurity does exists, even when it theoretically should not,” said Julianne.

Currently, the Hoya Hub is still in the early stages of supplying the food pantry. So when asked how the organization wants to tackle the issue of the nutritional value of the food provided, Julianne stated that the pantry has canned vegetables, nonperishable fruit items, and other meal alternatives instead of snacks. There are gluten-free options as well as canned soup, chicken and tuna, which are all adequate sources of protein. She said that “perishability restricts [the Hoya Hub] from providing regular fresh vegetable or fruit options.”

In some discussions, the prospects of partnering with Vital Vittles to buy food wholesale from their vendors and with Epicurean to receive regular order have come up. “We are primarily buying food from BJ’s to get the most food for the lowest prices. In the future as demand rises, we will be running food drives and try to partner with other food vendors for donations or discounts,” responded Julianne.

Some other aspects the Hoya Hub should consider moving forward include communicating with the participants of the community garden at Georgetown. The community garden is already well-connected with local farmers and some local food vendors, which could emphasize the environmental sustainability idea of the Hoya Hub. George Washington University also has a student-run food pantry that supports student living with food insecurity. Potential partnerships between the universities’ initiatives to tackle the fundamental causes of food insecurity could also be a possibility.