Hundreds of area teenagers will be going hungry next weekend. And it won't be because they can't afford a burger and fries. The teens will be voluntarily going without food to gain a personal understanding of what millions of people around the world are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
The 30 Hour Famine, an event sponsored by Christian relief organization World Vision, starts at noon Friday and ends at 6 p.m. the next day. The purpose is to raise awareness of world hunger and, at the same time, to raise funds to feed the needy.
This is the 15th year for the 30 Hour Famine, which has raised more than $80 million since 1992.
Among the many church youth groups in northwest Ohio that will be participating is Zoar Lutheran in Perrysburg.
"It's a really successful program because the students get to raise money, so they are actively helping the hunger issues around the world, and they also get to experience it by being so hungry after hours and hours and hours of not eating," said Anne Berg, youth director at Zoar. "It's a neat program because it combines those two aspects of hunger - creating empathy and doing something about it."
Sarah Twitchell, director of the Toledo ministry Love INC, which stands for Love in the Name of Christ, said her group is working with 14 local youth groups to provide programs and events for 30 Hour Famine participants.
"We don't actually have what we would define as hunger in this country, compared to other countries," Ms. Twitchell said. "It just doesn't exist in the United States. We have more of a 'food insecurity' problem. So you have to kind of create it for people to understand it. The kids start at noon Friday and only have water or juice until 6 o'clock Saturday when they break the fast."
Most of the money goes to the World Vision but a portion of it stays in the Toledo community, she said.
Ms. Berg said the Zoar youth group goes out and knocks on doors in the neighborhood to collect canned food for a local food bank, Perrysburg Christians United.
Carrie Sund, a volunteer for Love INC, said the group is sponsoring several events for famine participants, including a concert by Christian rock band Pawn at 9 p.m. Friday and a late-night visit to the East Toledo YMCA.
"We're trying really hard to get the message through to the kids so that they understand what they're doing, that they're not just there to hang out. I plan on showing some famine videos from World Vision during breaks," Ms. Sund said.
Karen Kartes, director of media relations for World Vision, said 30 Hour Famines are held in February, April, and October, and the money is not designated for specific nations or regions but goes to wherever the needs are most urgent.
"We call them 'flexible funds' because the famine problems are a little different each year. Last year, the tsunami was on everyone's mind, and we have a lot of relief work going on there. But we work in 100 countries and the needs change every year," Ms. Kartes said from World Vision's headquarters in Federal Way, Wash.
She said 29,000 children around the globe die every day because of hunger and preventable disease, and that 1.1 billion people live on less than $1 a day.
Last year, the 30 Hour Famines raised $11.6 million for hunger-relief. World Vision's annual budget was $905 million, Ms. Kartes said.
"$11.6 million may seem relatively small, but when you look at the impact on people's lives, the team-building events, the awareness events, then the funds raised is just one way to measure the event," she said. "There are a lot of other ways it has an impact."
The most urgent famine threat now is in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, where 11 million people are at risk because of food shortages, Ms. Kartes said.
Information on the 30 Hour Famine and World Vision is available online at www.worldvision.org. Information on local 30 Hour Famine events is available from Love INC at 419-471-9904.