Representative Tony Hall of Ohio has seen many people die of starvation. He first saw it in Ethiopia during the famine of 1984. “It was staggering, and I said to myself, ‘I never want to see this again,’ “Hall says. But he did. He saw it in Uganda, in Kenya, and again in Ethiopia. And he saw it in Somalia earlier this year.

So when the House of Representatives let the Select Committee on Hunger expire on March 31 without a word of debate or a vote, Hall felt a personal responsibility to speak out. And he chose a very personal way to do it. Last month, the eight-term Democrat from Dayton went on a 22-day water-only fast to call attention to the plight of hungry people.

“I am convinced that it takes a hunger fast to get action on these issues,” Hall said at an emotional Capitol press conference to announce his intentions. “I got to the point where I said, what do we stand for in this Congress? Well, I’m drawing a line; this is where I stand.”

Long an advocate for the poor and downtrodden, Hall, who is an evangelical Christian, was the chairman of the Select Committee on Hunger (CT, Aug. 17, 1992, p. 41). That committee, along with three others, fell victim to the drive to trim congressional spending. However, Hall says, cutting his $652,000 committee was “reform on the cheap” that made hunger issues “the sacrificial lamb” to spare more powerful, multimillion-dollar committees from making any cuts at all.

Hall says the way the committee was eliminated has convinced him that “Congress has lost its conscience” on the most basic issues. “How can we be genuine public servants if we do not put first the needs of the most vulnerable among us?”

Hall ended his fast April 26 after Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy agreed to organize a national ...

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