Rebecca Van Maren, 17th Class Emerson National Hunger Fellow
March 29, 2011
Ambassador and former Congressman Tony Hall went on a water only fast to protest the lack of conscience of the U.S. Congress towards hungry people in 1993. As a result of his 22 day fast, the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC) was formed and the World Bank pledged millions of dollars in support of hunger programs around the globe. I’m a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, a program run by CHC.
The efforts of Ambassador Tony Hall have allowed me to be where I am today. The Congressional Hunger Center works to develop tomorrow’s leaders to fight against hunger and poverty both domestically and internationally. My involvement with the Emerson program has been a life changing experience and has enabled me to better understand the complexities around hunger and poverty here in the U.S.
The current Congress has proposed budget cuts that could cause harm vulnerable people and Ambassador Tony Hall has decided to go on a fast again.
Hall is seeking out others to help him to build a “Circle of Protection” around the programs that provide vital lifelines to people who are depending on them. These are programs such as Head Start, AmeriCorps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and so many more. As such, I feel called to participate and show my solidarity with him, as well as the more than 38 organizations, including RESULTS, and 4,000 other people who have already committed to supporting his effort. People such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners, the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Ritu Sharma, co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide have joined Hall in his hunger fast. The 17th Class of Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellows will also be joining the efforts in solidarity.
Recently I have been feeling a sense of frustration and disbelief around the current happenings in Congress. By showing my solidarity with Ambassador Hall I am hopeful that we will be able to make an impact. If we all stand together through personal sacrifice, and call attention to what is happening, I am hopeful for a positive result. It is an open-ended fast and it will continue until something positive happens. I know that through this simple act of personal sacrifice, I’m able to participate in something much larger than myself. It is also enabling me to be conscience of why it is that I’m fighting against hunger and poverty here in the U.S. as well as abroad.
The programs supporting the 45 million Americans currently living in poverty are not why our country is facing the deficit. During this critical time in establishing our budgets it is an opportunity for our country to examine its morals and decide what we stand for, and what priorities we have as a country. Yes, reducing the deficit should not be discounted, but neither should the reality of the 45 million Americans living in poverty. We need to think long term and about the impacts these programs have on the future of our country. These programs save millions of lives, strengthen our national security and help lift people out of poverty.
I encourage you to visit Hungerfast.org to learn about Ambassador Hall and his work. There you will be able to find out how you can get involved or help raise awareness around the looming budget cuts in federal assistance programs and their negative impact on millions of Americans. No act of solidarity is too small, and there are many ways to be engaged.