Habitat serves up plate of hunger awareness

Meghan Gauriloff

Habitat for Humanity hosted an OxFam Hunger Banquet to help spread world hunger awareness to the community. Upon entering the event, participants were assigned a position at random into low, middle and high income sections. To show the separation of equ

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

While some ate a heaping portion of spaghetti and juice, others ate a meager amount of rice and water yesterday at Habitat for Humanity’s Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

The purpose of the event, held at the Presbyterian Church of Kent, was to help spread hunger awareness throughout the community. Those who participated got a chance to learn what hunger is like from the perspectives of those who experience it daily.

“You may think hunger is about too many people and too little food,” said Eli Konwest, senior anthropology major and co-president of Habitat for Humanity. “That is not the case. Our rich and bountiful planet produces enough food to feed every woman, man and child on earth.

“Hunger is about power. Its roots lie in inequalities in access to education and resources. The results are illiteracy, poverty, war and the inability of families to grow or buy food. Currently, 1.2 billion people live in poverty.”

Those who attended the event were separated into three categories: high income, middle income and low income. Each person also was given a characterization of a person who represents the specific social status he or she was assigned to.

Each category determined what people ate, where they sat and how they were treated.

Fifteen percent of participants were assigned to the high-income group. They sat at a table and were served a plentiful meal of spaghetti, juice and cookies for dessert.

Twenty-five percent of participants were assigned to the middle-income group. They sat in chairs without a table and dined on a meal of rice, beans and water.

Sixty percent of participants were assigned to the lower-income group. They ate on the floor and helped themselves to rice and water.

Women in the middle- and low-income groups could not eat until the men were served to represent countries where gender rules are strictly followed.

Brittany O’Brien, senior psychology major and member of Habitat for Humanity, attended the event to learn more about hunger and poverty issues.

“I came to get a better understanding of the world we live in … a truer understanding,” O’Brien said.

She was part of the low-income group, and her characterization was of a woman named Julia who lives in Nicaragua on $430 per year. The woman represented 70 percent of the country who is unable to meet basic human needs.

“This experience I really enjoy, because it’s a wake-up call,” she said. “Thinking about how other people live is definitely needed in order to appreciate what we have.”

Kathryn Anthony, senior integrated social science major, was assigned to the opposite group that represented the high-income status; she was served before the middle- and low-income groups.

“It made me really uncomfortable,” she explained. “I’m usually the last one to get served and first one to share.

“I am definitely in support of the cause because I come from a low-income, impoverished community.”

Eventually both the middle and high-income groups shared with those in the low-income group.

Laquita Ramsey, sophomore psychology major and part of the middle-income group, was the first to share her food.

“I had to share because I was about to cry knowing that they were on the floor eating,” she said. “The experience made me feel really bad because you think about the people who die (from hunger) and families who struggle to feed themselves.”

The event was concluded with a video provided by Oxfam, a nonprofit organization committed to helping eliminate the world’s hunger and poverty.

“I hoped everyone learned something, and they came out of here a more enlightened person,” Konwest said. “I hope they realize how fortunate they are and want to do something about those who are less fortunate.”

Contact social services reporter Meghan Gauriloff at [email protected]