On November 10, Student Life and Leadership hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet in the Student Event Center in conjunction with Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The banquet was designed to help bring awareness to the disparity of social classes and how hunger affects millions of people daily.
Nearly 1 billion people in the world go hungry every day. Even in America, one of the richest countries in the world, 39 million people live in poverty. Oxfam is trying to change those odds through educating and helping others become aware of the problem. This banquet demonstrated the type of inequality that happens daily around the world.
“At an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, guests randomly draw tickets that assign them to different income levels, based on the latest statistics about the number of people living in poverty,” states the Oxfam website. “Depending on where they sit, some receive a filling dinner, while others eat a simple meal or share sparse portions of rice and water. Oxfam America Hunger Banquet guests can also take on the roles of real people from around the world and share their experiences with others. While not all guests leave with full stomachs, many gain a new perspective on the root causes of hunger and poverty—and will feel motivated to do something to help.”
Upon arrival to the banquet each guest was handed a ticket that designated them to upper, middle or lower income. If they had an upper income ticket they were asked to sit at tables that were set with fancy dinnerware. Those with lower income tickets were told to sit on the floor. Then a full meal was served to the upper income ticket holders but the lower and middle incomes had to serve themselves rice and, if they were lucky, beans. 85% of the people at the banquet were not seated at the tables. That represents roughly the 85% of people in the world who are living at or below poverty level.
Seated at the tables, some of those in the upper income gave rolls or salad to those who were seated on the floor. Even though they couldn’t choose what they received, those in the lower income took it anyway. This was a representation of how people aren’t able to choose where they are born or their lot in life. It was also a representation of how they can’t always choose what kind of charity they receive.
“Give something you would want to eat,” said Linda Hilton of the Crossroads Urban Center. Hilton was the keynote speaker at the event. “If you were coming to a food pantry, what would you want to eat? Ask yourself that question,” she said.
Hilton’s hope for people at the banquet is to become aware of those in poverty in our community and to give them what they are in need of most, such as healthy and nutritious meals. She said that people often just give what is left over in their pantry that never gets used.
“People who are providing the charity decide what the people getting the charity need. I can’t tell you at Christmas time how many bizarre, and I mean bizarre, things that come into the food pantry for people on Christmas,” she said. “One of my favorites was a family brought their lawn furniture so that a homeless person could have some lawn furniture. How is a homeless person going to haul around lawn furniture? My homeless people need sleeping bags.”
For those with questions or who want to know what people are in need of, Hilton said to call the Crossroads Urban Center. Right now during Christmas they are in need of simple items such as Christmas cards, stockings and athletic socks filled with basic essentials such as soap and shampoo.
The food bank is also in dire need of turkeys for families this holiday. At Harmons grocery store, $10 will buy a turkey for one family in need and Harmons will match that through their Gift for a Gift program.
“Very small things make a very big difference,” said Hilton.
Visit oxfamamerica.org to find out about hosting an Oxfam Hunger Banquet or for more information.