The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project began as the Yale Hunger Action Project. YHAP came into being in the fall of 1974, when a group of students concerned about the effects of the famine then ravaging the Sahel began meeting with University Chaplin William Sloane Coffin on Friday afternoons in his Durfee Hall office to discuss means of educating themselves about the world hunger crisis and of taking concrete steps toward its eventual eradication. Having taken up this dual commitment to education and to action, they organized in November of 1974 the first annual “Fast Against World Hunger,” followed in 1975 by an in-depth survey of welfare recipients in the Fair Haven neighborhood conducted entirely by YHAP members. They also participated in the U.N.’s observance of World Food Day in 1975 by renting the lower Green for a day and holding an educational “food fair” with groups from throughout Connecticut and the New York metropolitan area sponsoring tables and offering informational programs. During these early years, YHAP also found time to be a founding member of the Emergency (Free) Food Council of New Haven and an original organizer of the community “Walk Against Hunger.”
In the years since YHHAP’s foundation, the organization has evolved along with the changing needs of New Haven and the country. In response to the huge upsurge of homelessness in the United States in the late 1980s, YHAP changed its name in 1987 to include the word “homelessness.” YHHAP began to shift its focus to more local concerns, examining and addressing the issues that are most important to the New Haven community. In 1998 YHHAP established the only Food Pantry in the Dwight neighborhood in response to overwhelming need. This Food Pantry was completely run and funded by YHHAP. In 1999 YHHAP went on to found Harmony Place, a community center run jointly by students and people who are homeless.
YHHAP has continued to raise funds for hunger relief through a biannual “YHHAP Fast” conducted in conjunction with Oxfam American until 1983 and thereafter independently. Students sign up to donate their meal swipes for one day each semester, with all proceeds going to local service providers. The Fast raised over $25,000 in the 2013-2014 school year, funding Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Programs (HPRP) at Columbus House, Liberty Community Services, and New Haven Home Recovery. We have also maintained an active volunteer program in the New Haven community, working together with community leaders and hunger activists on numerous programs designed to help the hungry and homeless population of New Haven. We have likewise continued to sponsor numerous speaking and educational events on the Yale campus and continue to bring outside speakers to campus both for special forums and for regular meetings.