Student Life’s Hunger Banquet: not that kind of banquet

Many students went hungry at SVSU’s first Hunger Banquet.

Although the event description said, “dinner will be served,” many students were surprised to learn what kind of banquet they were attending.

Inspired by the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, Student Life and the Human Awareness Committee offered students an interactive, demonstration dinner.

Since the event was held the week before Thanksgiving, Associate Director of Student Life Katrina  Friedeberg said she hoped students would come away from the Hunger Banquet thankful.

“It is that time of year when you reflect on where you are in life and how you could give back,” she said.

Together with nearly 30 students, Friedeberg and volunteers celebrated the harvest by trying to change the way people think about hunger and poverty.

Dinner guests were given a card as the entered the “dining room.” On each card was a character, including a name, biography and an income status, indicating if they were a member of the high, middle or low class.

Guests were escorted to three different places in the room. High-class guests were seated at a candlelit table, middle-class guests were seated in a circle on hard, wooden chairs and low-class guests were made to sit on the floor.

“We wanted to show poverty in a way people can understand,” Friedeberg said. “People don’t have a choice where they’re born.”

“It think it is important for those of us who are more fortunate to understand that there are people out there who are not as well off,” said Marianna Cuevas, coordinator of the Hunger Banquet.

Nearly 2.5 billion people live in poverty.

“We are all divided here today because hunger impacts people at all levels,” said Dylan Kosaski, Student Association president and Hunger Banquet speaker.

He said the event isn’t about asking college students to go out and donate, but to realize that this is a problem impacting the entire world.

“The first step is awareness,” he said. “It is important that we can relate and empathize with those in poverty. Our socio-economic status does not define us.”

He said that people living in poverty go through much more than what is said on the cards, since they have to make life choices that impact themselves and their family.

“It is just terrible that many people go hungry for dreaming about a better life,” Cuevas said.

For dinner, low-class guests were given crackers and cups for water. The water was in a large jug and was difficult to open. Many guests gave up and didn’t drink anything.

Middle-class guests were given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with bottles of water, while the high-class guests were served a large pasta meal, breadsticks and salad, topped off with sparkling juice to drink.

One low-income guest, Aimee Wilson, begged some of the middle-class guests for some of their sandwiches, reading her card to them, which indicated her as a fast-food worker that was unable to feed her family. A middle-class guest gave up her place to offer Wilson some additional food.

Additionally, the low-class guests considered theft and bribery as well as starting an uprising.

After dinner, the students discussed how they felt. Many students professed to being jealous of what others were eating.

“Hunger and poverty can greatly amplify the effects on people’s lives,” Kosaski said. “It is all about understanding.”

Student Life and the Human Awareness Committee hopes to hold the banquet again next year.

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