In 1993, Congress eliminated the House Select Committee on Hunger, a bi-partisan committee created to address the needs of poor and hungry people at home and around the world. Congressman Tony P. Hall, often called the “conscience of the Congress,” responded by fasting for 22 days, calling on the nation to reflect upon the condition of poor and hungry people.
Thousands of people across the country responded to Hall’s call to action and participated in the fast, some by fasting themselves, and others by organizing events, raising awareness or voicing their support. As a result of the fast the World Bank pledged increased support for hunger programs and the non-profit Congressional Hunger Center was established to train the next generation of leaders in the hunger movement, a legacy that continues to this day.
Today, almost twenty years later — with the stakes even higher and the proposed cuts even more harmful to vulnerable people today than they were before — Tony Hall is fasting again, starting on March 28, 2011, calling for those who share his concern to join him. Here are his goals:
1) Reminding people about the status of vulnerable people in the United States and around the world.
Here in America over 45 million people live poverty, including 15 million children: the highest poverty rate since 1960. 50 million people live in food insecure households. Meanwhile, Americans face high unemployment alongside skyrocketing food and energy prices. Around the world, 25,000 people die from hunger-related causes every day, 925 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition and 2.1 billion live on less than $2 a day.
2) Focusing public attention on the devastating effects that Congress’ proposed cuts would have on vulnerable people.
There is no doubt that America must address its long-term fiscal challenges. No nation can spend without limit, indefinitely, without eventually facing the consequences. However, in the name of deficit reduction, some in Congress have called for irresponsible cuts to vital domestic and international anti-poverty and hunger programs. As Americans, such cuts not only run counter to our sense of compassion and the common good; they distract us from the real problem.
Suggesting that the budget can be balanced on the backs of poor people not only ignores the two largest slices of America’s budget — entitlements and military spending — it betrays a fundamental lack of conscience. Poor people did not cause America’s financial problems, and hurting them is not the right solution. In fact, cutting programs for low-income people actually hurts the economy; every dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in stimulus benefit.
Congress’ proposed cuts — including a 30% cut to development assistance, 14% reductions to child survival programs, 8% cuts in HIV/AIDS treatments and 40% cuts to the Global Fund — put the lives of millions of children at risk, will harm seniors and people with disabilities, and unnecessarily plunge tens of millions around the world deeper into an already desperate struggle with severe malnutrition and hunger. Bottom line: these cuts are an offense to conscience.
3) Forming a CIRCLE OF PROTECTION around programs benefitting the most vulnerable people here in America and around the world.
Beginning on March 28, 2011 we invite you to join Tony Hall in fasting, prayer and personal sacrifice to form a circle of protection around programs that, if cut, would most severely hurt vulnerable people. The circle means participation. This is not a one person effort; we need you!