While I may a lone faster in my community, there are thousands of others who have or are fasting to bring attention to proposed cuts to federal food and nutrition programs.

Ambassador, and former Congressman, Tony Hall (Ohio), called together a campaign of fasting and education on March 28, 2011 — recreating his fasting campaign in 1993 to focus Congress’s attention on the needs of the poor and hungry.  Here’s why: “More people are living in poverty and hunger than ever before. The prices of food and energy are at all time highs. People are out of work. We do need to cut the deficit and need to get our fiscal house in order. But not on the backs of the poor and hungry. They didn’t get us into the current mess, and hurting them is not the way out of it.”

His campaign, Hungerfast.org, is a coalition of hunger relief organizations and individuals who have come together to educate policymakers about the status of vulnerable people in America and the world, focus attention on the devastating impact of proposed cuts to federal food programs on millions of Americans, and form a circle of protection around those who have no voice. Members include ME! And Alliance to End Hunger, American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, Congressional Hunger Center,  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Feeding America, Five Talents, Heifer Project International, Islamic Relief USA, Islamic Society of North America, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Meals on Wheels Association of America, National Farmers Union, ONE, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Universities Fighting World Hunger, World Food Program USA, and many others.

Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times, explains why he decided to fast: “I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry.” (It was his article that inspired me.)

David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World, a faith based hunger relief organization. He explains: “While we need to balance the federal budget and cut the deficit, we must not do it on the backs of poor people. The legislation passed by the House of Representatives last month makes hefty cuts to federal nutrition programs, reduced-price lunches, and food stamps—roughly 22 percent of the budget. Representatives left untouched the 78 percent of the budget that contains the big-ticket items of defense, Social Security, Medicare, and tax breaks to the wealthy.”

Heifer International’s CEO, Pierre Ferrari, and its President, Jo Luck, fasted because “today, there are 50 million hungry Americans, 17 million of them children. Around the world, 25,000 people die daily from hunger and hunger-related diseases and one billion (yes, with a B), are malnourished. Food prices are skyrocketing, as are energy prices. People are out of work and unable to find work. Natural disasters—Haiti, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, floods—are taking their toll, as is the climate, and Congress is proposing to cut 50 percent of food aid to hungry people overseas, and WIC (Woman, Infants and Children) and Head Start programs here in the United States.”

Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, Katie Egart from Ohio, and thousands of others, people like me (and maybe you?), have joined the fast crowd. But fasting isn’t the only way to get involved. Later today, I’ll provide some suggestions on ways to speak out, to speak for our neighbors who are at risk of hunger.

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