Virginia football player Joseph Williams broke an eight-day fast Monday around 10 p.m. so that he could focus on his studies and prepare for a service trip to Belize over the school’s spring break next week, he said Tuesday morning.
Williams is one of several Virginia students who either were or are participating in a hunger strike as part of the Living Wage Campaign’s efforts to leverage school officials into improving the treatment of service-sector employees. He said he lost roughly 12 pounds during his fast.
His first post-strike meal: miso soup and sushi.
“It felt good,” Williams said. “I got full a lot quicker. I ate really fast. I guess I was just really excited to be eating again. I was kind of queasy a little bit for a while, but I got over it.”
Williams said he had to make sure his first meal was a light one, and then he quoted Mahatma Gandhi.
“You can’t really transition into eating your regular routine after a fast,” Williams said. “I can’t remember the exact quote from Gandhi, but he said that it actually takes more discipline in breaking a fast than it does in maintaining a fast. As many days as you’re on a fast, that’s how long you have to be careful what you’re eating after you return to your normal diet.”
With two midterm exams and three term papers due this week, Williams said he no longer could afford the mental and physical sluggishness that had plagued him since he began his hunger strike. He said he was tired all the time, not to mention particularly cranky toward the end of the day. He’d fasted for one- or three-day stretches before, but never this long.
On Friday, Williams will help lead 10 other students on a week-long service trip to Belize.
“I really want to be mentally and physically prepared when I leave the country because I’m going to be responsible for 10 other people,” Williams said. “I really wanted to be back into the swing of eating and getting nourishment in my body before I left the country.”
On Wednesday, the LWC is scheduled to meet with university officials for the second time this week to negotiate their demands. As of Tuesday morning, 18 students were continuing to participate in the hunger strike. Even though he’d ended his fast, Williams sat with LWC members outside the Rotunda on Tuesday as a show of support.