Students at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges have begun a hunger strike to change a policy they say hinders them from helping fellow classmates who may be going hungry.
The strike, which began on November 2, aims to help approximately 1,400 students on the campuses who are at risk of being food insecure.
To address this issue, the students would like the option to transfer portions of their meal plans, provided by Aramark, to classmates who can’t afford to buy meals on campus. In 2009, the University of California partnered with a similar program called Swipe Out Hunger. This program is currently in place at several U.S. college campuses.
The Tom Joyner Foundation spoke with Spelman College junior, National Youth Director of the National Action Network and one of the strike organizers, Mary-Pat Hector, about how and why the students are taking up this cause.
Hector says that about two weeks ago, her and members of the campus chapter of National Action Network met about the issue and discovered the Swipe Out Hunger program. The group thought this program would help their cause tremendously, but it hasn’t been an easy road. As of today, the group has yet to hear from their schools’ administrations. If the program is enacted at Spelman and Morehouse, Hector hopes this initiative will spread to other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
At Spelman, students who live on campus are required to purchase a mandatory 21 meals per week. At Morehouse, freshmen are required to purchase unlimited meal plans. These costs can be a burden on many students, who find that dropping the meal plan and choosing to eat off campus can actually be more cost effective. Even if a student misses lunch each day due to, say, working off campus, this meal is simply wasted, Hector explains.
Currently, about 30 students are participating in the hunger strike to some degree. Some are on a full liquid and vitamins strike while others who take medication will consume bread every two days. In addition to the strike, the group has also started a petition for those who want to bring more awareness to the cause.
Although there is no end date associated with the strike, Hector is optimistic. “I’m hoping the administration will speak to us about this issue that is so important on our campus.”