Spotlight Exclusives

Lessons from a Lenten Fast

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The Lenten season reminds us to give thanks for the blessings of our lives. For forty days, Christians around the world fast to different degrees to recall Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert. But ours is a choice to give up dessert or to eat only one meal a day. On Easter Sunday, most of the rest of us will return to a life where we always have enough to eat. At the same time, Jews will celebrate Purim by “feasting and sending portions of food to one another.” Tragically for more than thirty-five million Americans, hunger is not a choice but a regular struggle.

Most of these hungry Americans work, or cannot work because of age or disability. Thirteen million are children who confront hunger through no fault of their own.

Many Good Samaritans will perform acts of charity during Lent as well. Yet while we are a privately generous nation, we are also publicly stingy. Food stamps, the main line of defense against widespread hunger, provide only an average of one dollar per meal. Despite the fact that waste and abuse is at the lowest level in history, the benefits haven’t increased in decades. The stimulus package passed by Congress sadly left out increasing food stamps for those who are most in need.

Lots of organizations exist to serve hungry people. My own Alliance to End Hunger brings together many of them to work together in building the will to end hunger. Unfortunately our elected representatives don’t seem to have that will yet. Our polling shows that American voters are looking for leaders on the issue of hunger and poverty and will support them. They can act right now to make sure hungry people aren’t forgotten and their concerns aren’t missing from important legislation, like the pending Farm Bill.

Hopefully, we can all give thanks that fewer people are hungry next year. May this season be different and ensure that our leaders provide a reason for everyone to have enough to eat.

Max Finberg is director of the Alliance to End Hunger, , a network of businesses, non-profits, religious bodies, universities and others committed to building the public and political will to end hunger.

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