Social Issues Banquet sheds light on poverty


Junior Applied Conflict Management major, Teresa Smith listens to Jenna Allen, Volunteer Coordinator and Erika Abram, Volunteer Specialist of Hattie Larlham at the Third Annual Oxfam Social Issues Banquety on Nov. 7. The Social Issues Banquet took place in the Ballroom and recognized those who partnered with non-profit organizations as well as many other things. Photo by Adrianne Bastas.

Abby Prulhiere

More than 100 Kent State students, faculty, staff and community members learned about poverty and food insecurity at Kent State’s third annual Oxfam Social Issues Banquet Nov. 7 in the Student Center Ballroom.

Tina Kandakai, director of the Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement (OEECE), said she hoped the banquet inspired students to make a difference in the community, especially when it comes to hunger relief.

“[The] event was jam-packed with activities that were designed to leave [students] enlightened and inspired by perspectives and understandings of social challenges created by hunger, poverty and injustice,” Kandakai said.

The banquet was free and open to all. As attendees walked through the ballroom doors, they received a small piece of paper that either said “high income,” “middle income” or “low income.”

“High-income” guests sat at tables in the front of the ballroom. They received full service from a waiter and ate a well-balanced meal.

“Middle-income” guests ate a bowl of rice and beans. They sat on chairs near the back of the ballroom.

“Low-income” guests sat on the ballroom floor and received a bowl of rice. Many “low-income” students ate the rice with their fingers because forks weren’t available to them.

Maya Nicholson, freshman theatre studies major who was a “low income” guest, said attending the banquet helped her compare the classes visually.

“I think a lot of people are unaware of how other social classes live,” Nicholson said. “I wish I was in the high income group because I’m hungry, but this rice just isn’t appetizing.”

Penina Acayo, graduate VCD student, said she attended the banquet to learn about how she can help local nonprofits.


The Campus Kitchen, College of Communication and Information TeleProductions, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, University Dining Services, Quality Initiatives, and Curriculum, Student Accessibility Services, Department of Pan-African Studies and The Nutrition Outreach Program all sponsored the Oxfam Social Issues Banquet.

Some non-profit representatives:

Campus Kitchen Project, Change Hunger, Haven of Rest, Freedom House for Women, Center for Innovation in Transition and Employment, Portage Learning Centers, KSU Women’s Center, and Kent Social Services.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bubble because I focus so much on my classes,” Acayo said. “I needed to step out of the box and see how I can help.”

Acayo said she lived in Uganda until 2007. Acayo said she witnessed friends, relatives and neighbors struggle to find food almost every day.

“American college life is so wasteful,” Acayo said. “It amazes me how much food students throw away. In Uganda, we are taught to eat everything on our plate, even if it doesn’t taste very good.”

E.G. Lindsay, senior special assistant in the Office of the Provost, who helped plan the banquet, said hunger is a problem for a large part of the population.

“Data shows that food insecurity is a problem for Kent State students,” Lindsay said. “I hope students will leave here with more sensitivity to social issues, especially issues concerning hunger.”

Lindsay said she hopes students learned how to approach their lifestyles in non-wasteful ways.

“So much food goes to waste,” Lindsay said. “I hope students learned to be more careful and not waste resources.”

After the hunger simulation, health sciences lecturer Tanya Falcone and two students presented a PowerPoint presentation of statistics. Falcone’s students told the audience that Cleveland currently ranks second for the poorest cities in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kandakai said the Oxfam Banquet was a great way to showcase community organizations that focus on hunger relief. She said many people are unaware of efforts that go on beyond campus.

“I hope the banquet served as a form of inspiration,” Kandakai said. “Students have tremendous skills they can use to support organizations that address social problems in the community.”

For more information about poverty and food insecurity, Kandakai said to contact the Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement at 330-672-7876.

Abby Prulhiere is the College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected].