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Demonstration in O’Neill Plaza Sheds Light on Food Inequalities

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


Alexandra Gaynor / Heights Staff


Alexandra Gaynor / Heights Staff

Erected late last night, dozens of white trash bags filled with thrown away cardboard, old paper products, and used plastic bottles hung conspicuously from a well-engineered wooden frame. Students walking through O'Neill Plaza could not help but notice the unusual scene. Most students glanced only momentarily at the strange contraption, a brief flash of bemusement crosses their face as they hurried to class.

Zachary Desmond, A&S '12, the creator of the 40-Hour Famine and the reason why there are trash bags hanging in O'Neill Plaza, watches from his table as dozens of students walk by, eager to promote the 40-Hour Famine and explain the significance behind the hanging trash bags.

"I find that public demonstrations, when inviting and not alienating, can be something that sticks with a person even if they are just passing through…to imagine what it feels like to not know where your next meal is coming from is a big deal," he said. "I want people to reflect about their access to food because not everybody has that."

The 40-Hour Famine is designed to raise students' awareness to food shortages and inequalities around the world. Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, participants in the 40-Hour Famine began their fast that will eventually conclude at 4:01 p.m. today with a final prayer and reflection. During those 40 hours, events and activities aimed at engaging the Boston College community, including a key-note speech from Rev. Mario Cisneros Mendoza, S.J., LGSOE '12, are scheduled to take place.

Dave Cronin, A&S '12, was inspired to participate in the 40-Hour Famine as an act of solidarity with the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa and all who go hungry around the world. One final meal and 17 hours later, Cronin is well aware of the nagging discomfort emanating from within his stomach due to lack of food.

"I entered into a 300-person class today and we had a guest lecturer who brought cookies and drinks for everybody," he said. "That was difficult, watching 300 people sitting around eating cookies and brownies while I was sitting there hungry. I was walking through the dining hall to meet up with a friend earlier today and just watching everyone eat food and then noticing how much was left over that people were throwing out … I wonder what someone would say from the Horn of Africa if they came here for one day and watched how we ate and what we do with our excess food." Desmond stresses that the fasting is not meant to be a harmful exercise for participants. Each participant is encouraged above all to take care of themselves and to be wary of pushing their bodies too far.

"The emphasis is going to be on understanding and embodying what hunger feels like as opposed to having an intellectual grasp of how many people are hungry," Desmond said.

In O'Neill Plaza students have added to the overall effect by writing out in chalk statistics and information about food inequalities faced by other communities around the globe, while others have added the names of students who have pledged to participate onto overturned trash cans. Students stopped by Desmond's table, questioning him about the 40-Hour Famine and what they could do to help.

"I want people through the fasting and creation of art to recognize that our actions here have enormous effects on the lives of others outside this community," Desmond said. ♦

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