Ryan Kellermeyer hasn’t eaten a proper meal in almost two months. Living on just water and one bowl of brown rice per day, he has already lost 35 pounds and will continue to lose more as the weeks go by.
What’s the cause for his significant weight loss?
Kellermeyer, 31, is taking a stance against world hunger by going on a hunger strike.
The strike began on Jan. 1, when he pledged to drastically cut back on his food consumption until $1 million is raised for organizations fighting world hunger.
Using the fast food documentary Super Size Me as inspiration, he came up with the “Simple Size Me” campaign. So far, he has raised more than $3,350 and is slowly on his way to meeting his goal.
His campaign includes the Web site simplesizeme.com, on which he periodically posts videos on his progress. It also has a page on the Causes application on Facebook.
Kellermeyer, who works at the Ayuda Community Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families in North Philadelphia, was troubled by the number of people who die from hunger and related causes – approximately 20,000 to 25,000 each day – and wanted to do something about it.
“We’re talking about a whole lot of people,” Kellermeyer said. “Right now, we have a bailout plan that’s putting all our money toward the rich, banks and the economy, when nobody really knows what that’s doing anyways. And there are so many people who don’t even have enough food to live on. To me, that’s troublesome.”
He also had other reasons to follow through with the project. Kellermeyer was struggling to figure out how to live on his current salary and had received a warning from his doctor to watch his diet. He wanted to re-examine his personal life, how he spent his money and what foods he ate.
“As Americans, I think we’re trained to want as much as we can get for ourselves,” he said. “You have to wonder if that’s really good for yourself and if it’s good for the world that you live in. I think there’s a lot of evidence that would say that it’s not.”
Kellermeyer, who used to be an avid coffee drinker, struggled during the first few days of the fast, suffering from severe headaches due to caffeine withdrawal. Except for the headaches, he said the first month was somewhat easy – he actually felt normal with the exception of the first day.
Lately, he has been feeling famished, and his nose has become sensitive to surrounding food, making him feel hungrier at times.
“Just the other day, I was walking through the park and suddenly I could smell McDonald’s,” Kellermeyer said with a laugh. “When I looked around, I saw a guy about a hundred miles away holding a bag with the logo. I was pretty amazed that I could sniff it from so far away.”
But even with his recent hunger pains, Kellermeyer is determined to continue his mission until his goal is reached. Although he admits to thinking about what his cutoff point should be, he is trying his best to stick it out.
Kellermeyer said society has become unresponsive to images of starving children in developing nations, and it would be useful to put a new face on hunger. He hopes that once he gets really skinny, people will take notice, and it will build momentum for his project.
He said he expected the campaign to start slowly, but he doesn’t think his goal of raising $1 million for world hunger organizations is too ambitious.
Kellermeyer is not interested in donating to domestic organizations. In his opinion, starvation is not as big of a problem in the United States as it is worldwide. He said the United States has the opposite problem, as 32 percent of American adults are obese.
“I’m not saying [hunger] doesn’t exist, but I’m certain that there is nowhere near 20,000 people dying a day from hunger in the U.S.,” he said.
Kellermeyer said the United States is a rich country, filled with rich people. To him, poverty is a relative thing, and anyone who can afford to go to college is rich.
“Don’t let anybody tell you different,” Kellermeyer added. “You are one of the wealthiest people in the world.”
He draws this conclusion from globalrichlist.com, a Web site that allows individuals to type in their annual incomes to see how rich they are from a global perspective. Most Americans will probably find that they are at least in the top 10 percent, if not higher – meaning 90 percent of the world is poorer. To him, that’s a very empowering position to be in.
As a Christian, Kellermeyer said his job is to help his neighborhood.
“I believe that my neighborhood will be most healthy when we’re helping other communities who are even worse off,” he said.
Perhaps the best explanation for his mission is the motto written on his Web site.
“Hunger sucks. We’re rich. Giving is fun.”
Simple words for a cause with a simple solution.
Christeen Vilbrun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.