Hunger Banquet Organized for Haiti
By Risalat Khan '13, Managing News Editor
To highlight the discrepancies in incomes and standards of living of the various social classes of the world, the Multifaith Council, Amherst Christian Fellowship, Newman Club, Amnesty International and Habitat for Humanity collectively organized a “Hunger Banquet” last Wednesday, April 7 at Lewis-Sebring Commons. The event was sponsored by the AAS, CCE, Student Activities and the President’s Office.

“The general message behind the hunger banquet is to better understand the reality of world hunger — both on the global and local level,” organizer Daeyeong Kim ’12 said. “Hunger isn’t a foreign issue that we can ignore. Hunger is in Amherst, Holyoke and greater Western Massachusetts. Hunger is present in America, and most definitely in other parts of the world. We need to take action. We can start doing that by raising awareness, and hopefully that’ll inspire people to volunteer at the soup kitchen, donate funds to food bank, etc.”

Dean of Students Ben Lieber was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. He started the proceedings by talking generally about the reality of global hunger and poverty. After that, the central part of the program — the hunger banquet — followed.

Every participant was given a story card when they entered. Each card had real stories of real people from one of three social classes — upper, middle or lower — and designated what class the participant would belong to for the program.

The smallest of the three classes was the “rich” or upper class, which was seated on one table. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of the participants were seated at the upper class table. This table had a fancy restaurant-style meal, with salad, a main course, chocolate and dessert. They even received bracelets. People seated at this table were served by waitresses and had tablecloths, two spoons and two forks.

The next class was the middle class, constituting about 25 percent of the attendants. This class was seated on tables too, but they had to serve themselves to a buffet-style meal. On the menu were a salad and a main course.

The rest of the people — the majority — were lower class, reflecting the dynamics of the real world, and had to sit on the floor. The only food available to them was a scanty serving of rice and beans.

“I sat at the upper class table, and you could tell that everyone felt uncomfortable sitting at a fancy table while people were sitting on the ground,” organizer Minjoo Kim ’13 noted. “I noticed a lot of people couldn’t eat [much, probably] because it made them that uncomfortable.”

The program had a suggested donation of $5 at the entrance, and the proceeds raised at the event were donated to the organization Forgotten Children of Haiti.

There were three speakers who gave talks on the latter part of the event. Megan Pete from the food bank of Western Massachusetts spoke about hunger on a local level, Assistant Professor of Economics Katharine Sims spoke about hunger as a problem in the context of developing countries, and Raphaelle Sondak, representative of Forgotten Children of Haiti, talked about the conditions of Haiti before and after the January earthquake.

The organizers considered the program a success, from the number of people who attended the event and stayed until the end to listen to what all the speakers had to say.

“Even the very disgruntled people who were complaining about their ‘low status’ began to see that in reality, they were the people who ate off fancy plates,” Kim said. “I remember a girl from the lower class who hadn’t eaten dinner before coming to the hunger banquet. She said that after receiving her small amount of rice, she automatically thought, ‘Oh, I guess I’ll just go to Val after this and make myself a sandwich.’ And then she realized that while she can do that, the people in the lower class in reality cannot. She obviously got something out of it, as I think other people did too.”

Issue 22, Submitted 2010-04-14 03:52:39