Each year, thousands of young people around the globe deprive themselves of food to raise money to help feed impoverished people in the developing world.

The 30 Hour Famine for World Vision started in Calgary in 1971, when a local girl challenged members of her church youth group to go hungry for a day and a half.

Teenager Ruth Roberts was moved by images she encountered on television, pictures of starving children in Ethiopia. Ruth was motivated to make a difference and posed a simple question to her church group.

“I said, ‘Have any one of you been hungry?’ and not one person said that they had,” recollects Ruth. “’Well I wonder what it would be like’.”

“We decided to put this weekend on and starve for 36 hours, that's how we did it.”

Ruth referred to the initial event as a ‘starve-in’ and the participants collected a total of $600.

World Vision saw the value in the youth group’s ‘starve-in’.

From its humble beginning, the famine has grown into a movement involving tens of thousands of young people in 21 countries. The awareness campaign raises millions of dollars every year to help feed starving children.

Over the years, the 30 hour famine has raised nearly one billion dollars.

Ruth says she never fathomed her event would grow to become such a success that it would continue to raise money and awareness 44 years later.

“Over the years, I've spoken to groups of young people and I've said that it was such a simple idea,” said Ruth.

Lois Weidman is two years older than her sister Ruth. Lois was no longer living at home when the starve-in took place but she says Ruth has inspired her to get involved in other ways.

“Over the years you know you really understand the impact that it's had on peoples' lives,” explains Lois, “and subsequently the importance of myself having sponsored children.”

In 2014, World Vision invited Ruth to its Canadian headquarters in Toronto and surprised her with the inaugural Ruth Roberts award.

For her idea which has contributed millions of dollars to feed starving children throughout the world, Ruth Roberts is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.

With files from CTV's Darrel Janz