Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
The youth of First United Methodist Church (FUMC) have once again gone without food for 30 hours as a part of a campaign to raise awareness of food insecurity and hunger locally and around the world. Known today as the 30 Hour Famine, it began in 1971 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, when 17-year-old Ruth Roberts and 14 of her friends staged an event in her basement to see what it was like to be hungry and raise money and awareness for children suffering from famine. Little did Roberts know that this event would take off and now takes place in 21 countries in partnership with World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization. This year 48 Franklin youth took part in the event. FUMC has been participating in this event for 23 years.
On a mission
Beginning at noon on Friday, Feb. 22, the youth of First Methodist Church began fasting and helping to collect food and raise money for the hungry. They volunteered at several locations in Franklin collecting donations of canned food, non perishables and cold hard cash. They also volunteered to clean up the Greenway, load firewood into a truck to be taken to a needy family, and entertained the folks at Franklin House through worship and song. The ages of the youth who participate for the full 30 hours is 11 and up. Students can take part in the 30 hour famine if they are in at least sixth grade. Those children who were too young for the full 30 hours were able to participate during the day on Saturday by helping out at CareNet bagging canned goods to be delivered to needy children at local schools. Joshua Keefer was among the youngest volunteers at age 8 who helped with bagging the 350 cans of food for the needy. He stated that “it was a good and fun experience” and he hopes to be involved again next year. Another older participant, also named Josh, said that they cleaned up couches, TVs, and pools from the greenway. “It is sad” he remarked, “people just don’t know any better, but we all came together to get the job done.”
“Doing community service makes you feel good inside and the distraction with all the stimulation helps you get through your hunger,” said Elizabeth Brenner.
Poverty simulations were created to help the youth understand how families can wind up being “needy.” One youth had to pretend that she was a 36-year-old mother with no job, no money and no husband. They began to understand how “food insecurity” can affect a family who was once self sufficient.
Another participant named Rose was adopted at age 12, but during her time in foster care, knew hunger and homelessness. She has a wonderful family now but will never forget her experiences at such a young age.
“Don’t take what you have for granted,” said Phillip Roberson, a 30-Hour Famine participant.
Graham Caldwell empathized with the plight of the hungry saying, “Although we fasted for 30 hours, other people go through this every single day.”
“You become more grateful for what you have through this experience,” said Elijah Cochran. Logan Guynn said, “It gives you a close bond with friends because you are all going through the same thing.”
Why feed the hungry?
During the service on Sunday Associate Pastor, Vickie Lawrence read this Manifesto.
“We all hunger for something. Love. Recognition. Money. Happiness. Acceptance. Safety. Meaning. Our hunger moves us to action.
“But what about those who hunger because they are actually hungry? Their hunger moves them to action, too.
“The dad forced to leave his family to find work when the farm fails. The mom who hasn’t eaten for days, saving anything she can find for her kids. The girl carrying her little brother miles to the malnutrition clinic, struggling because she’s hungry, too.
“A child goes hungry over there and we say that’s just the way it is. But it is not a just way. It’s unjust. It’s never been a question of ‘Is there enough food to go around?’ There is. It’s always been a question of ‘Are there enough people who care?’
“What if there are? What if we all hunger for justice? If all of us are moved to new action inspired by the love of Christ? To keep kids alive. To give food to all who hunger. All, meaning there’s no more ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s all of us. Because kingdom justice has always been about all of us.
“And it’s time we all just hunger. That’s what these 30 hours are about.
“Hunger isn’t just. But your hunger can be.”
Lawrence said that this was her first year participating in the famine and she found it to be “amazing and overwhelming.”
Time to break the Fast
On Saturday evening the youth were treated to a buffet of goodies to end their long fast. After worship and song they were “let loose” to fill their plates with pizza, chicken, savory side dishes, desserts and beverages. Many of them had been participating in this event for several years and for others it was their first time. The consensus seemed to be positive among the youth and they would all be returning next year to participate again.
By the numbers
The event brought in 7,623 cans of food to be distributed to students at East Franklin Elementary, Cartoogechaye, and South Macon Elementary Schools and the Rotary Club of Franklin Daybreak. Monetary donations totaled $7651.22 to be distributed to CareNet and World Vision charities.
Business partners who helped make this event successful included, Tektone Industries, SavMore, BiLo, Entegra Bank, Young Harris College, Hinton Center and The Town of Franklin.