Fasting And Philanthropy

This is a guest post from Steven Christoforou, the Youth Protection / Parish Ministries Coordinator for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s Department of Youth & Young Adult Ministries. You can connect with the Department at

Last Friday marked the beginning of the Nativity Fast, in preparation for Christmas.

Why do we fast? Why should we bother, especially during college, when our semesters are usually fueled by late night pizza and burgers?

Before we think too deeply about fasting, maybe we should take a look at how we relate to food in general. Maybe that will help us realize that fasting isn’t so much about removing food from our tables, but about adding acts of love to our lives.

Each year, we in the United States of America waste about 40% of our food. In other words, we essentially throw away as much food as we eat.

CC Image courtesy of Devin Young on Flickr

There are 870 million chronically undernourished people around the world. Some estimate that the food wasted in the US alone could feed all of them.

Surrounded as we are by twenty-four hour markets and people who struggle, not with too little food, but with too much, it can be hard to realize that hunger is a serious problem worldwide and even in our own neighborhoods.

Fasting can help us internalize what are otherwise abstract numbers. It’s one thing to talk about the suffering of the poor and hungry. It’s another to give up the comforts of a full plate and full belly; to eat simple foods and feel hunger’s quiet yet insistent whisper; to feel one’s strength wane as the days and weeks of the fast drift by.

Christ loved us, so He made our weaknesses His own. Though completely untouched by mortality, He voluntarily accepted death and entered the tomb. We can, in our own humble and inadequate way, make the suffering and weakness of our brothers and sisters our own. We can, if only for a short while, put aside the privilege of wealth and voluntarily accept a small taste of hunger and poverty.

We can also ensure that we’re not adding to mountains of food rotting in landfills, rather than filling the stomachs of the hungry.

Fasting isn’t about the food alone. It’s about our relationship with God, our neighbors, and all the blessings the Lord has offered us. Fasting can help us to better appreciate those blessings, and inspire us to share them with others through genuine acts of love, of philanthropy.

College students around the country are taking steps to help their school cafeterias cut down on waste and contribute more to local food banks and soup kitchens. Maybe your OCF can take the lead at your school.

Ask questions. Look into what your college cafeteria does with extra food, and see if there’s room for improvement.

Today’s challenge: See if you can make fasting not so much about taking food off your full plate, but about adding food to another’s empty plate.