I got an e-mail from MoveOn.org last week. The executive director, Justin Ruben, wrote:
When Congress can seriously debate forcing veterans into homelessness and cutting food aid to pregnant women and children, while giving tax breaks to billionaires, something is very, very wrong.
That’s why this morning, I joined, along with the heads of seven other major progressive organizations, in an ongoing fast launched by religious leaders to protest the brutal and unjust budget cuts being debated in Washington.
Those who will go hungry because of these cuts are largely invisible to decision-makers in Congress. By fasting in solidarity, we have an opportunity to make their suffering visible, and expose the immorality of this policy.
Will you join in? You can fast for a day or part of a day, for a meal or a week—whatever you can do.
I went to a New York Times article that was linked in the e-mail, Why We’re Fasting, to learn a little bit more about it. Author Mark Bittman said, “Roughly 45 million Americans spend a third of their post-tax income on food — and still run out monthly — and one in four kids goes to bed hungry at least some of the time.”
Millions of our fellow residents are going hungry, yet we’re still calling the United States the best country in the world. I don’t think the best country in the world would stand by and let its citizens starve. So I decided to take the pledge and fast for one day. I don’t have any physical conditions that would make this dangerous for me. If you do, check with your doctor before you decide to fast to ensure you won’t be taking risks with your health. (Mia Farrow had to stop a fast in 2009 in support of Darfur after her health took a turn for the worse.)
Ruben said more than 20,000 people agreed to fast for part of a day, one day or more. I decided to fast all day Sunday, and I knew it would be hard, but it was tougher than I expected. All I allowed myself was water to drink. And of course, as always happens when you’re trying not to think of something, food was on my mind all day. I had cravings for food that I like but don’t eat regularly: bananas, Fruit Roll-Ups, dried apricots, chocolate frosting, biscuits, apple crisp. I talked with several people on the phone, which helped pass the time, but (not knowing that I was fasting) they all talked about food that sounded so good I could almost taste it.
With five hours to go I started counting down until I would allow myself to eat again. Four hours, three hours, two and a half hours, one hour, a half hour… I actually broke my fast an hour early because I was starting to feel a little shaky. I didn’t want to end up making myself sick. With eight minutes to go I started preparing the food I would eat: a bowl of cereal with blueberries, a sliced kiwi with yogurt (my typical breakfast). Nothing has tasted as good in recent memory as that first spoonful of yogurt.
The difficulty I had not eating for a day drove home how immoral it is that millions of Americans go hungry each day because they have no other choice. I felt guilty being able to choose to do what so many others can’t. Really, fasting for a day and writing about it here are the very least I can do to bring attention not only to food insecurity in the United States but worldwide. I’m very aware that it’s a privilege to choose not to eat. At any time during my fast I could have walked to my pantry or refrigerator to grab a bite to eat. I have running water that means I can drink as much as I want whenever I want. If I don’t like the choices in my kitchen, I can drive a couple of miles in my car to a grocery store that offers thousands — perhaps millions — of different food options. I don’t have to wait for a certain time of the month for the government to deposit money in my account. I can buy fresh produce, which is often scarce in inner cities. I can buy many different organic products, which are often more expensive than nonorganic food and out of reach of lower-income families. When it comes to food accessibility, I’m more privileged than a majority of people in the world. That’s a heady thought, and one that I usually take for granted.
I’m not recommending that you fast to oppose budget cuts that would affect people who already have trouble buying food, but think of something you could do: donate to a food pantry or write your representatives in Congress to let them know how you feel. This is stating the obvious, but everyone needs food to survive, and being able to afford it should not be a privilege reserved for the middle and upper class.