Mason students honored for a fund to help homeless students

Yara Mowafy and Jordan Bivings with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University)
Yara Mowafy and Jordan Bivings with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University)

On Jan. 28, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized Mason seniors Yara Mowafy and Jordan Bivings for their efforts in setting up the Student Meal Assistance Fund at Mason.  

Mowafy and Bivings set up the assistance fund last November to assist homeless students by giving the students vouchers to be used at dining locations to help them get meals on campus.

"We're just trying to make it aware to students, that, you know, someone who's sitting next to you may not be able to afford to eat," Bivings said.

The Student Meal Assistance Fund, which is now donation-based, was finally launched in November after reaching a conclusion with Mason and various departments within the university.

"The best part of this is all the feedback and support we've gotten from the community and from homeless students," Mowafy said. "So that's been the most rewarding part, and I think that's why we're trying so hard to do more and help more people and expand it."

The Student Meal Assistance Fund holds the money that is donated online. University Life then uses these funds to administer vouchers to be distributed among students who self-identify as homeless or food insecure.

Mowafy and Bivings came up with the idea to donate used meal plans to homeless students on campus two years ago.

"Two years in the process of petitioning and going through every other thing that was in our way, we figured out that with the existing budget and the way our meal plan system is operated, there was no way to donate unused meal plans," Mowafy said.

Bivings, after working on a project for a New Century College class, started an organization known as Mason Meals in spring 2011 after working with a nonprofit program and encountering an alarming number of homeless college students. She teamed up with Mowafy, who had started a petition to also help homeless students, to create the Student Meal Assistance Fund that is now in place at Mason.

While they are unable to donate unused meal plans due to Mason dining and Sodexo contracts, they are proud with the program that has been developed, and they are determined to continue to push this program forward.

According to Mowafy, the program has since received almost $3,500 from students, faculty and staff, organizations on campus and other members of the Mason and Fairfax community. Sodexo also donated an in kind contribution of $1,000 worth of meals.

In the future, Mowafy and Bivings are aiming to expand the program even more. They hope to soon provide housing for homeless students as well.

"We want to find a process or a way [to provide housing]. Whether it is off-campus, in emergency dorms here, paying half of their rent for a semester, or reduce housing," Bivings said. "Something like that to have some sort of housing for them, even temporarily."

The second goal, moving forward, is to adopt this process and project across universities nationwide.

Mowafy is conducting a presentation with another student called Hunger for Education at Sacred Heart University.

"We're hoping to get the word out and get people to be more aware of this situation, so that's step in the right direction," Mowafy said. "A lot of students are falling in these cracks and we kind of overlook them. It's not a very big population, but that doesn't make them not human."

If you would like to donate to the Student Meal Assistance Fund, go to and write in "Student Meal Assistance Fund" in the field under donation allocation labeled "other established fund," or contact Yara or Jordan directly at or, respectively. 

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