Grateful to be Hungry

You may or may not know that I happen to be one-half of the social media team for a nonprofit hunger relief organization called Numana, Inc., based in El Dorado, KS. The story of how I got involved with Numana* (through social media in fact!) well before the first major packaging event on Dec. 29 & 30, 2009 is an interesting tale, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Since that first event we’ve held 62 volunteer-driven food packaging events from coast to coast in 12 states and 38 cities, packaging nearly 22 million meals consisting of chicken-flavored soy protein, rice, beans, and vitamins for disaster relief in Haiti, the Pacific, and beyond, as well as for school feeding programs.

A couple weeks ago Numana and Universities Fighting World Hunger hosted the first-ever Kansas Hunger Dialogue, with student, administrative, and faculty representatives from 20 of Kansas’ 42 colleges and universities in attendance. I found it very encouraging to hear from students and others in the hunger activism arena, particularly about specific ways to address the issues and raise awareness.

While the numbers are daunting, there was a definite can-do attitude and I think and hope that people left inspired and empowered to take action and care even a little bit more. I also appreciated that the various speakers emphasized how everyone can play a role in fighting hunger, even if it’s not their primary passion, from the business student helping with marketing efforts for events to the athletic participants in a walk or race to raise awareness.

Our final keynote speaker was Ambassador Tony Hall, who helped to found the Congressional Hunger Center and is the current Executive Director of the Alliance to End Hunger. He spoke about some of his work to fight hunger and about other important issues (if you want to hear the 30-minute speech, click here), and then invited those in attendance to join him in a Hunger Fast beginning on March 28th.

He explained that he went on a similar water-only 22-day fast back in 1993, in response to Congress eliminating the House Select Committee on Hunger, and that this time it would be in solidarity with those suffering from hunger around the world who would be negatively affected by likely national budget cuts to foreign aid, which is less than 1% of the Federal Budget. This gained the attention of the media nearly 20 years ago when many individuals and organizations joined him in fasting and prayer and awareness efforts then, and the same is happening today, with already over 4,000 signed up to participate in some way.

Despite my social media efforts for the cause of fighting hunger, I have to say, I still feel somewhat inoculated and protected from the pain and suffering so many experience in the world today. I’d bet that I’ve read more statistics and articles on hunger, watched more video clips and participated in more packaging events than the average person. I’ve cried lots of tears, tried to put my money where my mouth is, and donated volunteer time to the cause.

But unlike Numana’s founder, Rick McNary, I haven’t had the opportunity to personally hold a starving child and have my life forever changed by that reality. It is a reality for me, but a distant one…one that too easily fades with the much clearer realities I face on a day-to-day basis – taking challenging computer science classes, helping to watch little brothers, fitting in an IM chat or a Facebook game or two here and there.

So this morning, almost on a whim, I decided to do it. To participate in the fast. No, I haven’t signed any petitions, joined the Circle of Protection, nor even decided how long I plan to do this. To be honest, this isn’t even political for me. Fasts can be undertaken for spiritual reasons, for health reasons, sometimes to help one focus or maybe remind oneself of others’ needs…and perhaps in one sense I’m doing this for all those reasons.

Normally I think it’s a good idea to have the whys and wherefores planned out, reasoned out, but today I decided regardless of whether it would actually make a difference in the life of someone else (and I hope it and this post does), and regardless of who else was doing it and why, 25,000 people dying today from hunger-related causes…is enough of a reason.

I’ve fasted before, sometimes intentionally, usually not so. In case you’re wondering, I happen to love food. I thought my sister made an astute observation recently when she noted that perhaps I’ve been so involved in the hunger movement in part precisely because I love food so much (and want others to have a similar opportunity to enjoy food not just as a means of survival, but for its own sake).

But when I got out of my morning class, I deliberately walked past the college cafeteria, bypassing the fast food restaurants that I often frequent on long days like today. I sipped water from the drinking fountains once in a while, and found myself noticing anything food-related even more than usual…the person walking with a fast food bag and drink across campus, the vending machines, the signs on the way home.

I had the occasion to remind myself over and over again that this was nothing compared to what so many go through…those that don’t even have clean water to drink, let alone warm, nutritious food to eat. And I found myself grateful…grateful for the opportunity to give myself the slightest taste of others’ pain, and have it become that much more real for me…grateful to be hungry and know I could get fed…grateful for life and hope and the opportunity to help others and make a difference. Grateful…for hunger.

For this week, I want to be hungry, because there are so many that don’t have a choice. Join me?

Read the rest of the posts in this series:

*I think it probably goes without saying, but in this and all other posts on this site, the views expressed here are my own and not necessarily held by Numana as an organization or its staff.


This entry was posted on Monday, March 28th, 2011 at 9:54 pm and is filed under Important Causes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  • Kathy Manweiler

    I deeply respect the work that you and the rest of the Numana staff and volunteers do on a daily basis to battle the daunting epidemic of hunger around the globe and in our own country. It’s clear the fasting is meaningful for you, and it touches my heart because as someone who used to volunteer at a food pantry regularly and see families suffering from hunger, it made my own problems look very small in comparison. And I too was grateful to have a chance to help them and to see and feel their pain up close because it reminded me to be so thankful for so many of the things that it’s easy to take for granted in life — clean water, warm clothing, enough food to eat. What a powerful post! Thanks for sharing your journey, and I hope that it will inspire others to do what they can to fight hunger too. There are so many people hungry tonight, and they don’t have a choice. Thank you for standing up for them. — Kathy Manweiler (@kamkansas)

  • Olivia Fletcher

    Thank you for your comment, Kathy! I really appreciate hearing from readers and getting their feedback and insights. I hope to have the opportunity to participate with some local feeding/food pantry initiatives before too long too. Take care!

  • jan anderson

    Thanks, Olivia, great food for thought, pardon the pun!!!
    Stimulating and challenging, I appreciate you sharing.

  • Olivia Fletcher

    I’ve noticed there are lots of fun things to say about this topic, Jan. :) Thanks for your comment!

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