Students get a taste of class disparities at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet

At the Hunger Banquet on Monday, those students placed in the low-income class were seated on the floor and were restricted to a small portion of rice and water. Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

By: Jennifer Ortiz

Gardner-Webb students had the opportunity to act out a simulation of how resources are distributed worldwide during the Hunger Banquet on Monday at 5:30 p.m in Faith Hall.

The event, put on by Campus Civitan and sponsored by Oxfam, divided students into high, middle and low income groups and gave each student a card that outlined his or her character’s financial circumstances. Through a script, written and provided by Oxfam, Civitan leaders directed students to move up and down the class divisions according to the characters’ personal stories of economic movement and stability.

Participants get a taste of what class divides feel like at the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Banquet. Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

Participants get a taste of what class divides feel like at the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Banquet.
Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

After listening and reflecting on the stories of the individual characters, the students ate a dinner that roughly resembled what the three income groups would be able to afford. Students in the high income group were treated to servers and had a menu of spaghetti, salad, bread rolls, tea and cookies. The middle income group had a buffet-style dinner in which they could have an unlimited amount of rice, beans and water. The low income had a small plate of plain rice and water. In both the middle and low income groups, men had the privilege to eat dinner before the women.

Those Students placed in the high-income class got to sit at a table and eat a full meal served by someone else. Photo by: Elizabeth Banfield.

Those students placed in the high-income class got to sit at a table and eat a full meal served by someone else.
Photo by: Elizabeth Banfield.

“It was weird going up to the table and only being able to get rice when there was so much other food there,” said Bryton Mitchell, a junior who remained in the low income group throughout the duration of the event.

Despite the seating and eating arrangements of the event and listening to the stories of the characters in the script, Mitchell said, “In this setting, it’s hard to actually feel what these characters felt, since it’s fake.”

Campus Civitan President, Marissa Richardson, said that the planned event for Tuesday evening during the Gathering, which will feature a panel of people from Miracle Hill Ministries who have experienced homelessness, is the one that most often resonates with students.

Those Students placed in the middle-income class got a chair but no table and were restricted to a diet of beans, rice, and water. Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

Students placed in the middle-income class got a chair but no table and were restricted to a diet of beans, rice, and water.
Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

“It’s my favorite event because you get to hear about these issues from the source,” said Richardson. “I don’t think many, or any of us have actually experienced homelessness first hand.”

Twenty two students attended the banquet, and though the outcome was decent, according to Richardson, it was not as expected.  She said that because some members of the men’s swim team helped serve dinner after their practice at 6 p.m., the number of overall people in Faith Hall that evening seemed higher; only about 13 students there actually participated in the hunger banquet.

Marissa Richardson, president of the Campus Civitan club, welcomes everyone to the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Banquet on Monday. Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

Marissa Richardson welcomed everyone to the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Banquet on Monday.
Photo by Elizabeth Banfield.

“We are a club that cares about this event and this cause, so we want it to be student led,” said Keanna Caldwell, vice president of Campus Civitan. “But because it falls all on the students, it’s harder for us with our busy schedules to advertise and put all the needed work into it.”

Through teaming up with other student organizations, Civitan hopes to continue hosting the hunger banquet in the future and make it a more successful and popular component of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

 

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