On Monday, the Honors class hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet at Concordia University for students, faculty, and staff who wanted to participate. As guests walked through the doors of the Buenger Education Center where the event was held, they chose a card out of a hat that was their new "identity" for the night. At the top of the card was their income class: low-income, middle-income, or high-income. The low-income guests were directed to seating on the floor, the middle-income guests were given chairs, and the high-income guests were escorted to fancy tables and dinnerware.
Our three MCs gave a brief presentation on the current issues and statistics related to hunger in our world. As part of the presentation, some participants were moved across class lines to simulate how varying factors can affect poverty and their class status. During the meal, each income class had a slightly different set-up and menu. The low-income class was given a tray of rice and told to help themselves. The middle-income group was served rice and beans. The high-income group was waited on with a three-course meal. After the meal, participants were asked to debrief and share their thoughts from the experience.
This event that the Honors class hosted relates directly to the course description for this semester: "Students explore the needs of the world through the eyes of the poor and the marginalized. Students assess global conditions of population, health, economic development, ecology, and political expression in view of human responsibility for creation and the Biblical concern for the poor. Students analyze theoretical and practical approaches to addressing global inequities and needs." The Hunger Banquet certainly addresses the needs of the poor and marginalized because there is a direct connection between poverty and hunger. The guests were divided into groups according to their income, which determined the type of meal they were going to have. The Honors class took a theoretical approach to addressing these inequities and needs by simply putting on the Hunger Banquet. The simulation and proportions of the different income classes gave participants a perspective of what is currently happening in our world. Awareness is one of the most important initial steps to making a difference because without the knowledge, it is difficult for anyone to take any action. The Honors class is also thinking of taking the practical approach to poverty and hunger by initiating a collection from students, faculty, and staff to purchase animals or other things for those in less fortunate circumstances.
When I was in middle school, my school participated in the annual 30 Hour Famine through World Vision. On one of the introduction nights to the event, a similar type of simulation was done for all the attendees. I remember being upset because we had not been warned that this was the plan for dinner. As a hungry middle school student, I was not excited to eat half of a tortilla and a glass of water. However, as I reflected on the experience, I realized that it helped me put things in perspective, especially causing me to place myself in the situation of those I was helping through participation in the 30 Hour Famine. During the Hunger Banquet, I thought about this experience and realized, again, that I am very fortunate. As Dr. Basma Ibrahim DeVries mentioned during the debriefing session, the Hunger Banquet is only one meal that we go without. The hungry people that we are raising awareness for and trying to help financially, however, will not get back to their "normal" lives and find a hot, filling, and nutritious meal waiting for them.
I also thought the income statistics that divided the income groups were quite staggering. People in the high income group make anywhere from $12,000 a year or more. In most people's minds, an annual income of $12,000 is quite small. In fact, according to the US Census Bureau, the poverty line for any households with more than one person is above this amount. In other words, a family with a $12,000 income is considered to be in poverty in the United States, though they are considered of the upper class when compared with the rest of the world. As a future church worker who is looking at fairly low annual salary (when compared with what many other Americans make), I realized how blessed I will be given the circumstances in the world.
While I may not have participated directly in the Hunger Banquet, I can say that it still had at least a small impact on me. If anything, I was again made aware of the hunger situation in our world. And it's awareness that is one of the first steps to action.