Monday evening in the Hoosier Den, students’ next meals were left up to chance.
At the Oxfam American Hunger Banquet, a simulation of how socioeconomic status affects hunger from a global perspective, students were asked to take a ticket upon entering the room.
The tickets, distributed at random, would denote the status of each student — high income, middle income or low income.
“This event is a metaphor,” emcee Benjamin Seiwert said. “You may think hunger is about too many people and too little food. That is not the case.”
Participants placed in the high-income group were asked to sit at the table at the front of the room. The simulated middle-income group sat in chairs huddled together. Low-income group participants were seated around a black tablecloth placed on the floor.
The different levels represent the different economic standings in society, junior Sarah Moore said. Moore is a residential assistant at Foster Quadrangle and helped coordinate the program in the Hoosier Den.
She said this is the fifth time Oxfam has had this banquet, which helps students really visualize and think about the issue of hunger around them.
“It’s easy to think about the differences when you can see the different levels and kind of foods that are being served,” she said. “This is happening around us, we just don’t see it as easily.”
The high-income group was given a full meal with pizza from Mother Bears and cookies. The middle-income group was given a buffet of rice and beans. The low-income group was given only rice and water.
Esther Yoon, food, family and hunger director in Oxfam, said the best way to start communicating these issues to a large student body like IU is by raising awareness first.
“We’re so surrounded with food everywhere that we don’t understand that hunger is happening,” she said. “It’s about inequality. Our earth is capable of producing food for everyone, it’s just the distribution.”
Participants were asked to look around at the three simulated groups and recognize the imbalance and inequality within society as a whole.
“Eighty percent of you are not seated at the table,” Seiwert said.
During the banquet, senior Mercedes Jones presented students with a way to combat hunger on campus. As the executive director of Crimson Cupboard, a food pantry opening on campus, Jones made participants aware of how the larger issue of hunger can be localized.
She said the pantry will be based on an honor-system, so students in need can be supplied without proof of their economic status.
“There’s a great amount of students that are in need here,” she said.
Junior Melissa Adkins said this is her second time participating in the simulation. When groups were asked to discuss the inequalities that cause hunger, she said the injustice becomes more apparent as part of the simulated lower class.
“It’s easy to talk about poverty when you’re comfortably eating Mother Bears,” she said. “When we have a pile of cold rice, it’s not so fun to talk about.”
Although the leftover food was offered to all simulated classes at the end of the banquet, Moore said she hopes students leave with an idea of how the hour-long experience translated to the world.
“I hope that they will have a more realistic understanding of what’s going on around them,” she said. “The idea is that they’ll think about, ‘Okay, I did technically eat a meal, but I’m still hungry.’”
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