Students gain self-awareness by fasting


by Rachel Peterson

Did you know 1 in 6 Americans face hunger? 

According to this increases exponentially, on a global scale.

Religious Life Community (RLC) brought awareness to this issue when they held their inaugural Fast-A-Thon on Nov. 11th.

Approximately 20 students participated in the fast that lasted 24 hours and was broken at 5:30 on Nov. 12th at a Hunger Banquet in Dirlam Lounge.

Annie Fullas, interfaith intern, said students fasted on their own throughout the day. This meant no food or drink, except water.

At the Hunger Banquet, students broke the fast with pizza and a discussion about their experiences. Students who did not fast were welcome to attend the event.

Fullas said the idea of a Fast-A-Thon came out of an interfaith group she participates in.

“The whole idea behind the fast-a-thon is to raise awareness about global hunger issues and also to raise awareness about the different faith traditions that fast and why they fast and why that is important to them,” she said.

Abby VanEvera, a member of the interfaith group, experienced her first time fasting.

“I am doing the fast-a-thon more as self awareness so I can understand what others deal with and how other people who don’t either have enough money to buy food or have access to food to just understand how they live their life,” she said.

VanEvera said she was nervous to go without food for 24 hours, but had the support of her roommates who also fasted.

Fullas encouraged participants to donate the money they would have spent on food to Meals from the Heartland, a non-profit in Des Moines. 

The Meals from the Heartland website said this program started in 2007 with a food packaging event during Lent at a church in West Des Moines. Other organizations joined the cause, and since 2008, they have provided over 22 million meals to people in Iowa and around the world.

In addition to awareness of this social justice issue, Fullas wants participants to think about fasting in a religious sense.

“I think there’s this misconception that fasting only happens within the Muslim faith tradition, but it happens within other faiths as well,” she said.

Fullas cited Lent in the Christian tradition as a well-known form of fasting.

Fullas said students can also participate in alleviating hunger without fasting. Meals for the Heartland needs volunteers as well as donations to package food and provide education to others about hunger.