“Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger”

By: Brian Stone

Today, it seems as though there is normalized acceptance of a segment of our population not having enough food or shelter. The proof is last week’s budget cuts which will push those without food, homes and medical care into deeper despair. It is important that we remember what hangs in the balance. In the past, the anti-hunger and poverty movement has responded in a multitude of ways. One of those is known as a hunger fast (or strike) to draw public awareness to the issues the poor face and create policy change.

In the 1980’s Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at NCH, and Mitch Snyder, a life-time advocate for the homeless, fasted on the steps of the Capitol Building to pressure President Reagan into signing the first legislative protection for homeless people, which eventually became the McKinney-Vento Act. This act provided blanket protection and assistance to the homeless. Mitch and other advocates also fasted to get the federal government to transform an abandoned federal building in D.C. into a shelter for the homeless. Out of this fast the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) emerged, and remains D.C.’s largest shelter.

Former Ambassador Tony Hall has an unwavering commitment to poor people and poverty issues. While in Congress, Hall frequently authored legislation with expansive protections for the poor and vulnerable. In 1993, Hall, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, was dismayed by Congress’s decision to end the bi-partisan House Select Committee on Hunger. This resulted in his going on a 22-day hunger fast. He felt that Congress had lost sight of the issues that our most vulnerable face. The outcome of this fast was substantial. Congress agreed to fund the Congressional Hunger Center, of which I am honored to be a 17th Class fellow; and the World Bank pledged to support efforts to end world hunger.

Eighteen years later Hall feels that Congress has once again lost sight of the plight of the poor, those who stand to bare the brunt of the budget cuts. On March 28, 2011, Hall embarked on another fast to protest the current budget cuts. If you would like to join Tony Hall or get more information on the fast, check out: http://hungerfast.org/.

We must remember that people’s lives hang in the balance. What is more important than cuts made in the name of lowering the deficit is the impact that those cuts will have on a large group of people. Balancing the budget at the expense of the poor and vulnerable is not the answer. This will only prove to further complicate the lives of those who currently don’t have enough, with the likely end result being eventual increases in social support programs.

Hunger fasts, like Michael’s, Mitch’s, Tony’s and many others, have provided protections for the vulnerable and changed policy in the U.S. The time is now. Will you join the circle of protection around the most vulnerable members of our society?

Brian is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Civil Rights division at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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2 Responses to “Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger”

  1. cythia says:

    I do know what it is like homeless and yet really hungry,just people are to busy doing thier own self needs and look down on me as a loser Im not on the streets I rent a room at my parents house did I want it the answer is no but what choice do I have.
    My husband dead 8 months ago no place to go except family its nice but being independant is nice too look where it got me ….

  2. Ingrid Love for others says:

    I don’t know how someone is to survive in this world, when the system is set up for you to fail. Walmart start pay is $8 dollars and hour that $16,000 a year, tell me where can you get and apartment at for this amount of money, say if you get and section 8 voucher and work, your rent goes up, so therefore you can’t get ahead. If the little money you earn is being taken by the government what the point, that’s how a lot of the poor are thinking. I am blessed by the grace of God, ever where I look there are abandont building’s that can be turn into homes not shelters, but you know it cost too much, everything is about money when it comes to people who have plenty, but haven’t you notice that everything is coming full circle, what I mean by that is, the people who were stealing from the government are now paying the price. How the people in power shall fall, you are taking from the poor and we need to do more. I love people I hate to see someone homeless I don’t have a lot to give but I will give. You see you be a blessing to become a blessing, where is the compassion, where is the love,where is the understanding,where is the help. People want a home not a shelter our government is not going to help us we need God, and we need him all the time. Even if the people that needs our help do not believe in God, we still have to help and pray that one day they will believe, I know that I am trying to cram different views in one paragraph, but I want you all to see my point. The government is not going to help unless we are herd.

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