Over 50 students came forward with concerns about food insecurity over the Thanksgiving break period.
Only one Georgetown University dining facility, Epicurean and Company, remained open through the break. Because the restaurant requires payment in Flex dollars or other methods of personal funding, students were not able to use their meal swipes throughout Thanksgiving break.
Without alternative options from the university, these dining limitations created an issue for students who remained on campus over the break, according to Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate Vice Speaker Rowlie Flores (COL ’22).
“A lot of people who stay on campus tend to be low income, so that became problematic because they didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from,” Flores said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “Even in past years, Leo’s has always been closed, but this year was especially harmful because COVID is still going on; in general, there was no financial support from the university.”
The Georgetown University Mutual Aid Network, a student organization that collects and redistributes funds to students, saw an influx in requests for aid during Thanksgiving break, according to Megan Huynh (NHS ’22), one of the organization’s founders.
“We’ve just reopened our form today and have already seen a lot of requests from students who will be facing food insecurity due to the break,” Huynh wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We’ve seen an increase in requests relating to food and are generally aware that Leo’s closing poses a huge threat to food access on campus because we also received a lot of funding requests when the same thing happened last year.”
Newly nominated GUSA Vice President Thomas Leonard (COL ’22) met with university administrators Nov. 18 to discuss the concerns students brought to GUSA about food insecurity and lay out possible solutions.
Providing extra Flex dollars for students staying on campus during Thanksgiving break or keeping more dining options open would help to eliminate food insecurity, according to Leonard.
“One of the biggest things for us was hoping to get stipends available to students who need it, whether that be through offering of additional FLEX or funding that would not affect their financial aid,” Leonard said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “The other solution we wanted was to make sure that we had other dining locations open on campus.”
The university made free meals and food available to students through the Hoya Hub, an on-campus food pantry on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center, according to a university spokesperson.
“The Hoya Hub food pantry remained open during the break and had additional resources, including meal vouchers, available to students who needed emergency support,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Hoya Hub is stocked with non-perishable foods available on an immediate, emergency basis.”
Still, this accommodation proved inadequate for many students with dietary restrictions or a lack of access to kitchens, according to Flores.
“People were relying more heavily on the Hoya Hub pantry, but that doesn’t really support everyone,” Flores said. “It’s very limited in food, limited in funding and limited in supplies, so essentially people had to use their own money.”
The Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), which supports first-generation and low-income students at Georgetown, provided grocery grants and three meal vouchers to students in GSP who applied for the resources.
The grocery grants only covered dry ingredients, leaving some students unable to use them, according to Flores.
“There’s things that people have to consider like cooking utensils, pans and pots,” Flores said. “The money might be enough for ingredients and groceries, but if you don’t have the materials to cook your food then that’s also an additional cost.”
For low-income students who are not in GSP and were not able to apply for the additional food resources over Thanksgiving break, and even for GSP students whose approval was not guaranteed, access to food was even more limited.
According to Leonard, GUSA plans on meeting with administration again to discuss solutions for future breaks.
“It’s a problem of the utmost priority as it relates to making sure that our students are taken care of,” Leonard said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “It’s an issue that we’re absolutely going to have to revisit with a much more aggressive approach, both in our communications with administration but also the timeline in which we communicate with administration.”