For 12 hours, an estimated 50 participants battled an empty stomach during the MIT Fighting World Hunger (MFWH) club’s first campus-wide hunger strike. The fast capped the MFWH-sponsored Hunger Week, held the week following World Hunger Day on Oct. 16. to promote awareness of global food deprivation and malnutrition.
Approximately 100 individuals advertised the fast by wearing shirts that read, “Are you hungry?,” though many said they did not participate in the half-day strike due to medical or athletic reasons. Throughout the week, MFWH raised over $900 through their T-shirt and raffle ticket sales and various donations. These funds will be divided between Pine Street Inn, a local homeless shelter, and Doctors without Borders.
Overall, the hunger-awareness week was seen as a success by MFWH Vice President Laura R. Stilwell ’14 because students were responsive to the cause. “I was surprised how fast it caught on. For example, within the first few days, all of our 100 T-shirts had been sold,” said Stilwell.
Due to the high prevalence of malnourishment in both global and local communities, MWFH wanted to raise overall campus awareness, according to Stilwell. The primary goal of the hunger strike, specifically, was that MFWH “wanted people to realize how hard [living with hunger] is. In America, we are given this illusion of plenty, and that is definitely not the case,” Stilwell said.
According to MWFH posters around campus, about one in seven people suffer from chronic hunger. This equates to roughly 925 million people worldwide who live with empty stomachs or malnutrition, 98 percent of whom live in developing nations, according to The Hunger Project, a global non-profit organization that seeks to end world hunger. According to a 2010 report on hunger by Project Bread, a Massachusetts organization that seeks to eliminate hunger, nearly 660,000 Massachusetts residents are at risk or are affected by hunger.
For Hunger Week, MFWH scheduled talks by guest lecturers and collaborated with hunger outreach organizations, such as Challah for Hunger on campus and Doctors Without Borders. Part of the funds raised by Challah for Hunger through their challah sales were given to MFWH, and Doctors without Borders will receive funds from MFWH to support a malnutrition-focused project in Southern Africa.
Stilwell said that MWFH hopes to continue Hunger Week as an annual tradition and expand its campus activities. In an effort to raise awareness of malnutrition, MFWH is planning on hosting a hunger banquet — where attendees are designated into a “social class,” and served meals associated with their class level — in the spring in collaboration with the Harvard Hunger Initiative. Until then, MWFH will be rooting itself in efforts to fight local and global hunger.
MFWH can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.