Our History


It all started when…

The Yale Hunger Action Project, then YHAP, began almost fifty years ago when concerned Yale students arranged Friday afternoon meetings with University Chaplin William Sloane Coffin to address the famine then ravaging Sudan. Coffin, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and former Minister of N.Y.C.'s Riverside Church, was president of the nation's largest peace and justice group--SANE/Freeze, now named Peace Action. These early Yale activists met Coffin in Durfeee Hall to educate themselves about a world hunger crisis and establish concrete steps toward its eventual eradication. 

Energized to upend poverty, these students organized the first annual "Fast Against World Hunger" in 1974 on Yale's campus, and in 1975 YHAP members surveyed welfare recipients in the Fair Haven neighborhood to access the depth of local food insecurity. Soon after, YHAP rented New Haven's lower Green to hold an educational "food fair" in unity with groups throughout Connecticut and the New York metropolitan area who were participating in the United Nations observance of World Food Day. YHAP went on to be a founding member of Emergency (Free) Food Council of New Haven, and an original organizer of our community's "Walk Against Hunger."

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True to YHAP's roots in education and action, this rapidly growing organization of student volunteers evolved with the changing needs of New Haven and the growing national awareness of homelessness. In 1987, YHAP changed its name to YHHAP to incorporate its new focus on homelessness as a deprivation often hand-in-hand with hunger.

Determined to address a global problem through local activism, YHHAP continually examined and addressed issues most important to the New Haven community. In 1998, YHHAP established the only Food Pantry in the Dwight neighborhood, responding to an overwhelming need. The Food Pantry was completely run and staffed by YHHAP. In tandem with their goal of alleviating hunger locally, the following year YHHAP empowered the homeless population by founding Harmony Place, a community center jointly run by Yale students and New Haven's homeless.

YHHAP raised funds for local hunger relief in conjunction with Oxfam American until 1983 when the biannual "YHHAP Fast" become financially independent. Across campus, generous Yale students sign-up to donate their meal swipes for one day each semester, sending nearly $25,000 in proceeds to Liberty Community Services, New Reach Shelter, and Columbus House.

Yale student volunteers dedicated to uplifting our community and easing local hunger and homelessness are the foundation of our dynamic organization. Our hunger and homelessness activists work with community leaders to design and participate in numerous programs (see Projects) to help New Haven's struggling population. YHHAP also sponsors speaking and educational events on campus as well as engages in advocacy and policy work. Proud of our history, and determined to enrich our community's future, YHHAP serves those with less.