As students have returned to in-person classes this semester, a troubling feature of Georgetown’s on-campus college life has returned as well: food insecurity. In response, The Corp and the Hoya Hub recently began a partnership to address the lack of healthy, affordable food available to students.
Food insecurity, when individuals lack access to reliable sources of healthy food, has persisted for decades in the U.S. In recent years, data has shown high levels of food insecurity among college students, a problem exacerbated by the pandemic. According to a nationwide survey, 39 percent of students studying at four-year institutions faced food insecurity in the fall of 2020. Students who lack adequate healthy food options tend to struggle more academically and receive lower grades in classes more than their food-secure peers.
This issue has been particularly prominent at Georgetown. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of surveyed Georgetown students had reported experiencing food insecurity during their time on the Hilltop. In response, the Hoya Hub, an on-campus food pantry, was established by Georgetown students in October 2018. At the Hub, students can find snacks, pre-packaged meals, and other groceries. Items available to students also include essential goods like feminine hygiene products and household cleaning supplies.
“The Hoya Hub initially started with a few student assistants working with the Center for Student Engagement,” Anthony Garcia (COL ’23), a Hoya Hub student manager, explained. “They would do consistent grocery trips and they would stop and drop it off pretty frequently, and it was a huge help for me freshman year.”
Students experiencing food insecurity can access the Hoya Hub in room 418 of the Leavey Center. To access the code that unlocks the office, students scan a QR code on one of the posters taped to the door and fill out a Google Form in which they provide anonymous information to help Hoya Hub managers determine the needs of food-insecure students. Inside, the Hoya Hub runs on an honor system, allowing students to take as much food as they need.
Much of the food and supplies in the Hub come from university-funded grocery trips and donations from local businesses. This past September, however, the Hoya Hub began a new partnership with The Corp to increase the amount of food available. This partnership is divided into three parts, the first part of which consists of catering and internal vending.
“Every week we deliver two orders of internal vending products, which are sandwiches, overnight oats, tortellini. Everything is handmade by Corp employees and we deliver that at cost to the Hoya Hub,” Corp Board Chair Harper Thomas (SFS ’22) said.
The second part of the partnership consists of connecting the Hoya Hub with The Corp’s food suppliers. This part of the partnership is expected to go into effect soon.
“We’ve worked with the Hoya Hub to create a system where they can use our resources and connection with wholesale vendors to order around $500 of food and convenience items—you know, feminine hygiene products and various different non-food related things—using The Corp to do that at a much lower cost than retail,” Thomas said. The connection would allow the Hoya Hub to place orders three or four times per semester.
The third part of the partnership consists of raising awareness of food insecurity and advertising the Hoya Hub at Corp locations. At all Corp locations, posters advertising the Hoya Hub, Georgetown Mutual Aid, and The Corp X Mutual Aid Flex Fund (a flex dollars donation program) are displayed.
“One of the elements that we’re trying to build in general with some of our campus partnerships is really an emphasis on solidarity around the issue of food justice,” Rose Dallimore (SFS ’22), The Corp’s community engagement chair, said. “By doing these food security resource sheets, people are able to see what kinds of resources are available to them beyond what the university provides in terms of supporting their food security needs.”
Although Georgetown changed its policy regarding meal plans this year by requiring all students to purchase a meal plan, there is still a major need for alternative options, according to Hoya Hub student manager Manahal Fazal (SFS ’24).
“Every time we restock, everything’s getting used and taken up so clearly there’s a need for [the Hoya Hub], and clearly the meal plans aren’t providing students with what they need,” Fazal said.
Garcia and Fazal noted that the lack of accessible high-quality food is a huge problem on many college campuses and that it requires larger-scale solutions than what the Hoya Hub and The Corp currently offer. The two student managers envision the Hoya Hub expanding to allow for a greater variety of basic food items and household necessities by the end of the semester.
“It’s basically going to be like a mini grocery store where food-insecure students could shop for anything and have healthy options to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” Garcia said.
Representatives from both The Corp and the Hoya Hub hope that through further collaboration, this expansion of the Hoya Hub can become a reality. Both organizations also plan to continue working with Students Advancing Food Equity (SAFE) and Georgetown Mutual Aid to expand access to healthy and convenient food options for students experiencing food insecurity.
“We really see these kinds of partnerships and these kinds of efforts to address issues on campus and issues that affect typically marginalized or underserved groups on campus as being really central to our mission of serving other students,” Thomas said.