CRS hopes FoodFast will educate, empower

By Brandon Desiderio
April 24, 2012

Cabrini’s chapter of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) plans to curb the college’s hunger by providing food for thought. By organizing an event that they’ve called FoodFast, the CRS Ambassadors have reached out to the campus community for participation in a highly reflective fast.

“FoodFast is a 10-hour fast that’ll take place on Sunday, April 29. Only drinking water and juice is allowed,” Rasha Sharhan, senior math major and fair trade ambassador for CRS, said. “But it’s more about feeling what people who suffer from real hunger feel.”

Sharhan differentiates “real hunger” from the basic hunger that everyone feels when their stomachs are empty. What she considers “real hunger,” by contrast, is largely built upon the concept of food insecurity.

Food insecurity, defined by an individual’s or even an entire population’s inability to safely and sustainably access nutritious food, is founded on three basic principles. First is the individual’s access to food, which may be restricted due to elevated prices and the privatization of farmland. Second, the debatable availability of food alone is enough to leave any population vulnerable; without close proximity to food sources – that is, nature’s very own supermarket – consistent food provisions will be hard to upkeep. The largest issue, however, is the third and final point: food use.

Many of those who experience food insecurity lack vital knowledge about nutrition and sanitation. Without this knowledge, these individuals face an even greater obstacle when trying to secure a viable source of food. They wouldn’t be able to tell whether one food source is superior over another in terms of health benefits, or if the water in a polluted stream is drinkable.

The majority of the day for FoodFast will include awareness-spreading activities and educational speakers.

“One of our activities is that we’re going to actually carry water buckets over our heads,” Sharhan said. “And we’re going to race to get water from the pond at the front gate. This will help us identify with people from areas without enough water, or without access to water at all.”

Sharhan is additionally an intern for the Northeast Regional Office of CRS. Her assistance in the organization of FoodFast is actually a part of her work as an intern, in addition to her involvement in developing a “FoodFast” curriculum for colleges and universities since the fasting concept is traditionally geared towards high schoolers.

“There are a lot of causes of hunger,” Sharhan said. “It’s different – sometimes it’s caused by natural disasters for example. And sometimes it’s economic. There are so many people throughout the world that suffer from hunger. I don’t think you have to look far to understand how many people it really does affect.”

“One of the big issues right now is the Farm Bill,” “The Farm Bill is passed every five years. It’s a combination of agricultural laws, like SNAP. The budgets of these programs are being cut. What we’re trying to do is not get them cut as much as what’s being proposed.”

SNAP, a program which provides food stamps to poor families, is just one governmental program that will face these budget cuts.

“I fee like people – especially here at Cabrini – they’re in a kind of a bubble,” Sharhan said. “I’ve been talking to my friends here about FoodFast and they’ve said that they’d never do something like this. But I tell them, think about people who go days, weeks without food. We’re ‘fancy fasting’ – we’re drinking juice. So we’re just feeling a fraction of what people actually feel from hunger. I mean, how can you not care? You could easily be one of them someday.”

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Brandon Desiderio

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