Oxfam Hunger Banquet

Posted on 15. Nov, 2014 by in Campus Events, Volunteer/Service

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Nearly 870 million people suffer from chronic hunger in America and more than 2.5 billion people live in poverty worldwide. To raise awareness and show support towards fighting world hunger, the Volunteer Center hosted the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. Oxfam is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.  This event randomly divided students into different “economic classes”: low-income, middle-income, and high-income. Students were then given a meal according to their respective class and engaged in discussion about the effects of hunger and poverty in America.

When I arrived, I was presented with a slip of paper (like one shown below) that placed me into the middle-income category. Though I was thankful that I hadn’t been placed into the low-income category, I also felt somewhat dismayed  that my luck had not gotten me the high-income. Nevertheless, I contently took my seat and met the five other students at my table. Three of them were also middle-income, one was low-income, and one was high-income. We introduced ourselves by the story that we were given based on our slip of paper, and then listened to a representative from Oxfam discuss the mission of the organization along with eye-opening facts and issues about hunger worldwide, in our own country, and right here in Indianapolis.

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Directly after the speech, it was time for food. The high-income individuals were notified that they would be served the following meal pictured below by one of the members of the Volunteer Center. The meal consisted of pork slices covered in gravy, steamed vegetables, rice, and rolls.

 

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After the high-income folks were served, the middle-income group was free to serve themselves a portion of rice and potatoes. Already, you can see the difference in variety and quality from the upper to middle class.

 

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Lastly, the low-income individuals could help themselves to a small portion of plain white rice. As the picture shows below, the meal was pitiful even compared to mine, not to mention how unappetizing it looked as well.

 

Oxfam Hunger Banquet

 

After everyone had food, the discussions began at each table. Unanimously, our whole table felt bad for the low-income individual and wanted to redistribute the food so that everyone had an equal portion. Nevertheless, the low-income individual at my table stated that she would feel guilty receiving charity and taking what was not really hers. Meanwhile, I was focusing on the high-income individual’s plate, savoring over the pork covered in gravy and hot rolls. My meal barely fulfilled my appetite, and I was in want of more. Nevertheless, only the high-income participants were offered seconds. As our discussion continued, I realized my own prejudices and lack of empathy for the poor. I was craving the high-income meal so much that I neglected to offer any sympathy for the low-income people. I admitted to carrying the prejudice that poor people must have done something wrong to get themselves into their position, or that they could do something to work their way out of poverty. This simulation overthrew that idea. Just as the participants for our activity received an economic class at random, everyone is born into an economic class of which they had no control in choosing. This activity  demonstrated that regardless of economic class, we all have feelings, wants, and needs. In addition, money is not a factor in who can join the movement to help others and feed the hungry.

After some time of small group discussion, the room was opened to anyone who wanted to share what they thought about the activity, and several students made impactful statements. A student who was placed in the middle-income class stated how he usually ate like the high-income meals in real life, especially by having an unlimited dining plan at Atherton. Moreover, he stated how thoughtless he was on some days when he would throw out whatever he didn’t finish on his plate. A girl at another table who was placed into high-income stated that she felt sympathy for everyone else at her table, and declined the offer for seconds because she didn’t want to flaunt how much she was able to receive. One of the last comments to be made was by a student who was placed into the low-income group. The student mentioned how she was upset that she was only able to receive a scoop of rice. Yet, she stated that she was even more frustrated at herself for this initial thought because there are so many more people who have to go to bed without eating anything. She said that in the end, she was grateful to have received anything at all. I think her final statement rang true for everyone in the room, and it personally inspired me not to take what I have for granted. I give the Volunteer Center compliments for setting up such a unique event, and making me think about the issues outside of my own little world.

Volunteer Center staff pictured below:

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Learn more about the Volunteer Center online, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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About Cole

COLE SMITH is currently in his fifth year as a pharmacy major/ business minor. A quote from the Understatement Society notes Cole as, “A cool guy.” Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Cole is an outstanding leader, and an even better person.” Besides living up to both of those quotes, Cole is president of the Butler cycling team, Honors Program member, Dawg Dish Photographer, student government representative, and part of the DAWG Pound cheer block #GoDawgs. He is also a huge Twitter advocate #TweetAtMe. During his free time he loves meeting new people, stargazing, being a tourist, and looking at pictures of cute puppies #Uncanny. Cole credits his Butler experience for having a huge impact on his character and leadership development, and he makes every effort to display Butler in a positive light through photography. President James Danko and VP for Student Affairs Levester Johnson both stated that they would cry at Cole’s graduation, but they know that he will go on to do great things.

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