Reliable access to fresh food should be a basic right that all universities guarantee for students facing food insecurity—yet the Georgetown University administration has underserved students in need of such access.
The Hoya Hub, which opened in 2018 and is currently located in Leavey 418, was designed as an initiative to combat food insecurity at Georgetown University. This university-funded food pantry aims to provide students, faculty and staff with perishable and non-perishable food resources on immediate notice.
Because of a lack of university promotion and inadequate storage capacity, however, students seeking food and resources from Hoya Hub are often met with obstacles instead.
Therefore, the Editorial Board calls on the university to make Hoya Hub and its resources more accessible to students facing food insecurity by expanding its physical size and resource capacity, as well as shifting the burden of promoting its services away from students and instead onto their main social media accounts in noticeable and transparent ways.
According to a 2016 Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) survey, 54% of the 351 students surveyed reported experiencing food insecurity. Moreover, in light of the university’s annual tuition increases, students potentially face even more financial constraints, which could contribute to greater difficulty in accessing food.
Aside from Hoya Hub, there are other ways students attempt to combat food insecurity, specifically through clubs like Students Advancing Food Equity (SAFE). SAFE and the Hoya Hub often operate in tandem, as students in SAFE organize food rescues and collect excess food from local restaurants to stock the pantry, while those in Hoya Hub maintain everyday operations.
Additionally, the “Free Food On Campus” GroupMe student group chat, which has amassed over 3,000 members, allows students to share free food opportunities to decrease food waste and has since become a medium for organizations like SAFE to achieve their goals.
Outside of SAFE activism and the “Free Food On Campus” GroupMe, however, Hoya Hub receives astoundingly little advertising. The food pantry is overseen by the Division of Student Affairs and is directly affiliated with the university. Yet, it has only received one student-wide promotion this academic year.
The university relies on various campus entities and student organizations, as well as individual students, to promote the Hoya Hub.
“Students are made aware of the Hoya Hub through entities on campus including the Georgetown Scholars Program, Counseling and Psychiatric Service, Student Outreach and Support, Student Financial Services, Student Health Services, academic deans’ offices and other student-facing university resources,” a university spokesperson told The Hoya. “Student-to-student peer networks also play an important role in sharing information about the Hoya Hub.”
The primary onus should not be on students to spread information about food outlets. The university must use more centralized methods of communication, such as their main social media accounts, and proactively inform students of these outlets.
On top of the university’s lack of messaging, the physical location of Hoya Hub causes additional access and storage problems.
In fall 2021, Hoya Hub returned to its location on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center, after a temporary relocation to the Village A Community Room due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a university spokesperson.
“The location of the Hoya Hub in the Leavey Center has some natural benefits, including that it is located in a building frequented by students and is accessible to all students during non-business hours,” the spokesperson told The Hoya.
In actuality, the Hub is far from students’ daily paths across campus. Though this location may be purposeful so as to limit access to those students who require Hoya Hub the most, it likely discourages them from attempting to seek out the pantry, or even prevents them from knowing about its existence in the first place. Helen Rocker (COL ’24), a volunteer for SAFE, expressed concern with the location, as well as the process of gaining access to the room.
“In terms of accessibility, it is in an obscure location in Leavey that is not really advertised.” Rocker told The Hoya. “You need a passcode to open the door, and I’m not sure how well-known the code is, which could also deter people who need to rely on it for food.”
In addition to its obscure location, Leavey 418 does not provide nearly enough room to store all of Hoya Hub’s food and resources. While the room was expanded in 2019 to allow for storing perishable food and to include more space for equipment, students have still expressed concern over the lack of space available for storage.
Nicholas Hwang (COL ’23), food rescue coordinator for SAFE, specifically mentioned this lack of storage as one of Hoya Hub’s most prominent limitations.
“The quality and the size of the hub has always been an issue for Hoya Hub and SAFE,” Hwang wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We still desperately need more space (hopefully a bigger room), and more refrigerators so we can store actual meals that are fresh. To make the issue worse, they have recently just removed the one refrigerator that we had in the hub, which means we can’t store any fresh food for a long time anymore.”
The university must offer more space to allow for the storage of more substantial amounts of both food and other basic necessities, such as the newly-reopened Healey Family Student Center, a spacious building that students regularly visit.
While the university’s limited advertising of Hoya Hub ensures that the pantry’s resources are reserved for the students who need them the most, this method of concealment and limitation is ultimately unsustainable and harmful to the student body. Furthermore, the capacity issues caused by the university’s neglect result in waste of food resources that could be given to the students in need.
Ensuring consistent and reliable access to food for students facing food insecurity should be a fundamental objective for the university. Initiatives like Hoya Hub are essential, and Georgetown must ensure they have the resources, location and advertising needed to best serve the campus community.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editors. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.