Vancouver legislators fast, reflect on child hunger

From the desk of Columbian intern Lucas Wiseman:

OLYMPIA — For 24 hours, four legislators from Vancouver stopped eating to bring attention to child hunger.

Reps. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver; Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver; Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver; and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, chose to fast from sundown Tuesday till sundown Wednesday.

Harris said his body is accustomed to fasting.

“I fast once a month with my church, so you sort of get used to it,” he said. “It really changes your perspective on life.”

Typically Harris’ church donates the money they would have spent on food to a local food bank, and he said he intended to do so after his fast Wednesday.

First Congregational United Church of Christ led the 24-hour fast.

“Last year, our state cut in half funding for the State Food Assistance Program that helps feed nearly 14,000 children,” the Rev. Brooks Berndt, of First Congregational United, said. “It is our hope that during the 2013 legislative session lawmakers will fully restore funding to this program, as well as to invest in local hunger programs and in the health and well being of our children.”

Stonier, a teaching coach at Pacific Middle School, said she sees the impact of programs like the state Food Assistance Program on hungry children.

“At my school, we oftentimes have kids who pick up backpacks full of food to take home when we know there is no food,” Stonier said. “Programs like that are helping kids coming to school, not going to bed hungry, and when we cut those programs we cut their support system.”

Stonier said Wednesday that keeping busy in Olympia helped alleviate her hunger, but “I have been thinking about a cheeseburger for the past hour.”

One in four children in Clark County face hunger, and households with children are the largest group accessing emergency food boxes in the county, according to Share, a Vancouver-based non-profit.

The fast was part of a coalition effort by a statewide interfaith advocacy organization called the Faith Action Network.

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