Students pledge to ‘get hungry for change’

Courtesy Photo /
Participants in Fast-a-Thon will fast from sunrise to sundown

Courtesy Photo / Participants in Fast-a-Thon will fast from sunrise to sundown

Susie Skowronek

Students, faculty, staff and community members will pledge not to eat or drink from dawn until sunset Tuesday as they glimpse into the lives of the hungry and homeless in Grand Rapids.

The Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada sponsors a nation-wide Fast-a-Thon, an event that takes place on more than 250 college campuses, including at Grand Valley State University.

People will fast – abstain from all food – from 7:28 a.m. at sunrise until 6 p.m. at sunset to raise awareness and gain a first-hand experience of hunger.

“There are people who don’t have the option whether or not to fast,” said Kaifa Alsoofy, president of the GVSU chapter of the MSA. “Fasting teaches us to appreciate what we have when some people don’t even have clean water.”

Participants will break their fast with a free Mediterranean dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Pere Marquette Room of the Kirkhof Center.

The dinner will feature entertainment by Askia Bilal, a poet and an art and design student from the University of Michigan, whose art features themes of religion, iconography, language and philosophy.

At the dinner, participants will engage in brief group reflection, answering questions about their period of fasting.

Throughout the week, members of the MSA and Hunger and Homelessness, cosponsors of the Fast-a-Thon, have sold baked goods in the Kirkhof Center to raise money to benefit hungry people in the Grand Rapids area.

“We are always looking for ways to collaborate with other student organizations,” said Ashley Keller, president of Hunger and Homelessness. “With more people, you can have a bigger effect.”

Additionally, Keller said food distribution to the homeless aligns with the mission of her student group.

“A lot of people can’t imagine what it feels like to be hungry,” Keller added. “So people are fasting to see what is like to be hungry for half a day.”

The MSA has sponsored the Fast-a-Thon twice in the recent past. In 2007 donations benefited Mel Trotter, and in 2008 money went to God’s Kitchen.

This year funds will go to the Grand Rapids chapter of Project Downtown. A representative from the organization will address participants of the Fast-a-Thon at the Tuesday night dinner.

The project provides hot drinks and sandwiches to the homeless throughout the course of the year. For the cold weather, Project Downtown distributes winter clothing.

“We try to provide new items whenever we can,” said Project Downtown volunteer Kamal Nuriddin. “We will go to a manufacturer and appeal to them to make a donation or give us bulk items.”

Nuriddin said Project Downtown will spend the funds raised through the Fast-a-Thon to buy new clothes – socks in particular, which cannot be reused.

Nuriddin said people can fall into two categories, those who have everything they need and have an obligation to share the excess and those who do not have enough and have a right to receive.

“If we fit into the first category, in fact, we’re blessed,” Nuriddin said. “But the fact is a lot of people don’t.”

He said he encourages people to look at their situations. If they have enough to eat and have a roof over their heads, and they have excess, donate something.

The MSA will accept monetary donations and winter clothes today at a table in the Kirkhof Center lobby and at the Thursday night dinner.

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