The Hoya Hub, an on-campus food pantry, expanded to twice its original size over the summer allowing for free perishable food items to be available to the Georgetown University community for the first time.
Although talks of expansion have occurred since the food pantry first opened, the actual renovations, which included knocking down walls and expanding into a former dark room in the Leavey Center, took place this summer. The Hoya Hub first opened last October as part of an initiative by the Georgetown University Student Association to combat food insecurity. The food pantry is open 24 hours a day and is available to anyone in the Georgetown community.
Prior to the renovations, the pantry was limited to nonperishable food items. Last year, the space was able to provide over 10,000 nonperishable items to over 200 undergraduate and graduate students, according to Hoya Hub Student Advocacy Organization treasurer Samuel Dubke (SFS ’21).
The renovations to the Hoya Hub include a refrigerator, new shelving units and space for more equipment, according to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Erika Cohen Derr, who oversees food pantry operations.
“From the inception of the food pantry, there was hope for a larger space to accommodate more inventory and the option to add perishable items,” Cohen Derr wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The larger space can now accommodate a refrigerator which can include some perishable staples — milk, cheese, yogurt, for example — and also frozen items.”
With the additional capability of an expanded and updated space, the Hoya Hub received its first perishable items from Food Rescue DC, a local branch of the national company Food Rescue US that distributes excess food throughout Washington, D.C.
Refrigeration allows Food Rescue DC to be more involved with the Hoya Hub moving forward, according to Food Rescue DC site director Kate Urbank (SFS ’83).
“I’m so encouraged that the hub has expanded and doubled its size and now it includes refrigeration,” Urbank said in an interview with The Hoya. “That means Food Rescue US can do significantly more rescues to the hub than we were able to do before.”
In addition to the Hoya Hub, which is administered by the Center for Student Engagement, involved students are also engaged in a new club development process to be fully recognized and receive Access to Benefits status. The new club, the Hoya Hub Student Advocacy Organization, will be separate from the pantry and reside in the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service.
The club will allow students to engage in advocacy surrounding food insecurity that extends beyond Georgetown’s campus, according to Hoya Hub Student Advocacy Organization president Julianne Licamele (COL ’21).
“Our club itself is more focused on student advocacy and food insecurity as a systemic issue rather than just running the food pantry,” Licamele said.
The added space will allow the food pantry to be more group friendly, making students feel more comfortable visiting the Hoya Hub with their friends, according to Licamele.
“Additionally, the new space means that people can comfortably visit the pantry in groups,” Licamele wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Many people who use the pantry tell me that they come with their friends, so it makes sense to make the space more group-friendly.”
In the future, the Hoya Hub Student Advocacy Organization has plans of further collaborating with Students of Georgetown, Inc., commonly referred to as The Corp, according to Dubke. At the end of the last school year, the Swipe It Forward Flex Donation Drive allowed students to apply their excess Flex dollars toward purchasing bundles of $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 associated with a variety of nonperishable food items.
Handling the planning, funding and execution of the renovated space through the CSE shows the university’s potential to act upon student advocacy on campus, according to Licamele.
“I think that this expansion represents the university working with us to dignify pantry users,” Licamele wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Students who benefit from the pantry deserve to have a space that is large and comfortable. The project speaks volumes about the potential of Georgetown to work with us when we identify real needs of students.”