The statistics flashing on the video screen were staggering – every 3.6 seconds someone in the world dies of hunger and one in eight children in the United States goes to bed hungry.
But, the real impact for participants in the recent Oxfam Hunger Banquet on the Tusculum College campus came through vividly experiencing the inequitable distribution of food resources among the world’s population.
Coordinated by the Tusculum Bonner Leader student service organization, the Hunger Banquet involved dividing those attending into low-, middle- and high-income groups. Each participant was given a ticket as they entered that told which group they would be part of and described the life of a specific individual in that economic group.
The majority of students, faculty and staff were assigned to the low-income group and found themselves sitting on the floor around a large bowl of plain, white rice and a bucket of water. This group had no utensils or dinnerware for either serving or eating.
A smaller group, less than a third of those attending, were in the middle-income group and had chairs on which to sit. That group served themselves a meal of rice and beans, and they had serving utensils as well as eating utensils and dinnerware.
Three people received “high-income” cards and were seated at a nicely decorated table to be served a full meal of chicken, vegetables and a chocolate dessert.
Bonner Leaders Amanda Clampitt and Kalie Smith were the masters of ceremonies. They shared statistics about each economic group and described their lifestyles as well as provided information about worldwide hunger and Oxfam America.
As they shared information about the economic groups, Clampitt and Smith also shared information about how climate change is affecting each of the groups. They noted that people in the low-income group are often dependent on crops that are susceptible to temperature changes.
They also said that hunger is not an issue of a lack of food production but an unequal distribution of resources. “Everyone on earth has the same basic needs; it is only our circumstances – where we live and the culture into which were are born – that differ,” said Clampitt. “Some are born into relative prosperity and security, while millions, through no choice of their own, are born into poverty.”
In remedying the situation, the root causes of hunger and the inequitable distribution of resources have to be addressed, which leads to looking at who has power over those resources whether it is private businesses and industries or governments, the students noted.
Individuals can help by becoming educated about hunger and its root causes, sharing that information with others and working to reduce their carbon footprint as well as becoming involved with a group like Oxfam America that works to find solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice, they continued.
The Hunger Banquet was also a way to help local efforts to alleviate and prevent hunger as participants were asked to bring canned food items that were donated to the Mission Soup Kitchen of the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church.
Oxfam America is a part of Oxfam International, a confederation of 13 Oxfams working in more than 100 countries. Together with individuals and local groups in these countries, Oxfam works to feed the hungry, help people overcome poverty and fight for social justice.