As a middle-class teen, I never have a worry about whether there will be food on the dinner table or something in the fridge. But many kids and adults around the world do have that worry.

To kick off Lent, my parish, St. John the Baptist in Valatie, invited local high school teens to explore social justice during a 15-hour "food fast."

Through prayer, speakers and community service, teens learned about hunger, poverty and human trafficking. I was on the core team to plan the fast, using activities from a program by Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

We started by attending an ecumenical Ash Wednesday service. To be in solidarity with those who don't have enough food, we didn't eat for 15 hours. Water and juice were the only drinks allowed. It was hard for a lot of us; we're used to having late-night snacks.

The core team had made a life-sized board game to help teens think of ways to be in solidarity with others who don't receive three meals a day. Teens were human pieces, moving around the board. Hearing facts about hunger like, "Enough food is produced globally to feed everyone, but many people are hungry because they lack land to grow food or money to purchase it," opened our eyes to what is happening right in front of us.

The board game made everyone think about ways we can help others who are living in poverty, and also ways local communities are growing sustainable food already.

Two speakers from Siena College's "Siena for Life" club spoke on human trafficking and showed a short movie about the evils of child exploitation. It made me reflect on the fact that human trafficking happens around the world and so many people walk by it every day.

The core team used a prayer labyrinth, a slide show on hunger and a guided meditation. We lined the labyrinth with food donations and facts about hunger. The meditation gave everyone a chance to reflect on their gifts and their personal interaction with Jesus.

After hearing about the issues, people were thinking, "What can I do to stop this problem?" We finished our night with service projects: for example, filling backpacks for students in Hudson with meals a child could make, like macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. (Many schools provide breakfast and lunch for children who otherwise wouldn't receive any, but with the backpack program, kids can go to the school offices and pick up a bag filled with food to take home.)

We made cards for Meals on Wheels so a greeting can be delivered with the meal. We made blankets for a women's shelter. After a short dance party and games, we ended with a pancake breakfast.

Afterward, we decided as a group to take part in the H2O project: We'll make water the only beverage we have for two weeks and donate the money we'll save on other beverages to give someone clean water for a lifetime.

Like any church gathering, I was sure to make new friends. I did not expect to go home with a new outlook on what I eat, how much I eat and who else is eating. I know we all were changed.

(Rachel, 17, is a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Valatie.)