Teenagers fasting to understand hunger

Teenagers across Minnesota will begin a 30-hour fast this afternoon, trying to expand their understanding of global and local hunger.

For 30 hours, the teens in Duluth, Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud, the Twin Cities and other parts of the state will go without food. They’ll also participate in service activities – volunteering at food shelves, packing food for hungry children in developing nations, or serving breakfast at homeless shelters.

“We’re doing it so that it gives them a little taste of what it is like to be hungry,” says Leisha Tays, who leads one of the Minnesota youth groups participating in World Vision’s annual 30-hour Famine this weekend.

The program, which is designed to raise both awareness and funds to fight hunger, is in its 20th year nationally. According to World Vision, more than 100 groups have signed up to participate in Minnesota this weekend. The teens will be allowed to drink liquids.

“We want them to be more aware of people around them, to be thinking constantly about their neighbor, nearby and around the world,” says Tays, who has led the 30-hour Famine at First Lutheran Church in Columbia Heights for six years. She expects about 50 teenagers there to participate this weekend.

“We want them to be thinking, ‘How can I live my life differently every day to help people I won’t even meet?’ ” Tays says.

In 2010, the 30-hour Famine raised more than $10 million nationally. World Vision, a Christian relief and development organization, uses the funds for its global work.

Julie Siple reports on hunger and related issues for Minnesota Public Radio News. MPR is a partner in the Hunger-Free Minnesota project, which helps fund her reporting.