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Howard University Offers Blueprint to Address Food Insecurity

Many of us woke up this morning certain about what we would eat and assured that breakfast would not be our last nutritious meal of the day. Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. Though options and access are characteristic of a free and developed society, billions of people worldwide continue to lack the necessary resources to tackle food insecurity.

Dr. Tashni-Ann DubroyDr. Tashni-Ann DubroyMunicipal and nonprofit partners in Washington, D.C., are actively collaborating to eliminate hunger in neighborhoods hindered by a lack of access to quality food. Howard University, an anchor institution in our nation’s capital, also took strides to address this matter. But true transformation and empowerment requires us to go beyond boundaries of academic majors, industrial interests, ages, and genders reflected in our community.

For example, Howard launched NourishHU over five years ago to provide access to perishable items free of charge to hundreds of students. This initiative grew as we gained new community partners. Thanks to collaboration with food service vendor Sodexo, Howard University Student Association, and College of Arts and Sciences Council, we now offer emergency meal swipes and meal vouchers for students with short-term food vulnerability.

Harris-Teeter, which pledged $50,000 to the university to support food access, donates over $3,000 in gift cards annually to NourishHU to support graduate and professional students with families.

Our food insecurity satellite initiative also offers grab-and-go snacks, microwaveable meals, hygiene products, and more to students visiting our Intercultural Affairs and LGBTQ+ Resource Center in the Armour J. Blackburn University Center. Our HU Care Cart offers similar items across the university community with the support of student volunteers during campus events and public outreach projects.

Dr. Cynthia EversDr. Cynthia EversTackling food insecurity demands urgency and innovation, especially when studies have found 23% of undergraduates and 12% of graduate students – four million students in total – facing this dilemma. However, food access support also requires dignity, discretion, and compassion in what is offered, how it is presented and how people feel in receiving it. Howard puts the community first by avoiding measures that stigmatize and prevent others from accessing assistance out of shame or fear of being judged.

Simply put, we must put the community first. And we strive to achieve this by regularly surveying the campus body and NourishHU partners to ensure our inventory meets the diverse health, allergy, and religious needs of students and employees.

Eliminating food insecurity also requires an all-hands-on-deck effort from committed partners. Building on existing relationships with Sodexo and Harris-Teeter, Howard pursued new partnerships with Bayo Arowolaju Foundation, the Metropolitan D.C. Chapter of The Links, and others to expand refrigeration systems to stock larger amounts of fresh produce and increase items that appeal to a diverse population of students with culturally specific food needs, and those seeking options for vegan and gluten-free diets.

Eating to live is an inalienable right due to all citizens of the world, for no one can thrive on an empty stomach. As members of Congress continue to elevate food insecurity on the Hill, many universities have made progress in addressing this pressing matter. Howard applauds their efforts and looks forward to building more models of success for our peers to emulate and apply on their campuses.

Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Howard University.

Dr. Cynthia Evers is the vice president of student affairs at Howard University.

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