Georgetown students frequently encounter homeless men and women in Washington, D.C., perceiving this vast inequality but not knowing how to help. Swipe Against Hunger, a campus organization that allows students to donate unused meal swipes once a year before the Thanksgiving holiday to people experiencing homelessness, provides a simple method of aid.
However, 212 meal donations — the number of donations it achieved in 2014 — is not enough to make a substantial impact on the D.C. homeless community. Georgetown students have a responsibility to uphold the university’s Jesuit values by continuously donating food throughout the year; hunger is not confined to the holiday season. The drive has the potential to have a more profound impact if it were to become an endemic part of the university’s culture, tradition and mission. Student organizations need to increase their collaboration to increase the frequency of food donations for the D.C. homeless population year-round.
To make this system a tradition and uphold the values of care and student ownership at Georgetown, student organizations can make gains by hosting regular food drives. Closer coordination between organizations such as Georgetown Individuals Vocal and Energetic for Service, Georgetown University Habitat for Humanity, Hoya/Homeless Outreach Programs and Education or the Organization Assisting the Homeless Student would make hunger among D.C.’s homeless population an issue that is always present in students’ minds. This cooperation would enable the groups to transcend small-scale donations and have a greater effect in combating D.C. hunger.
Looking beyond intracampus organizations, students could partner with the Food Recovery Network, a national student movement against food waste and hunger founded by University of Maryland students with 155 chapters, including One at The George Washington University. A partnership would further add to student organizations’ impact by giving the Georgetown community the means to donate a large portion of leftover food found in on-campus dining locations in drives that serve the homeless year-round. Such a program could also significantly expand Georgetown’s students’ engagement with the homeless population and their awareness of local hunger issues, while providing a greater understanding of what it means to live by Jesuit values.
While the once-a-year model used by Swipe Against Hunger has its benefits, a more consistent commitment to feeding the homeless population would lay the groundwork to maximize the efficiency and positive impact of students’ actions.