Addressing global food inequality
Over 100 million people who
were once able to provide food for
themselves recently lost that ability,
and "joined the ranks of the hungry,"
according to a notice sent out
by the Colby Volunteer Center
(CVC) and LuziCare.
In order to bring this reality to light--a difficult task on a campus where dining halls often shut down at the end of the day with many pounds of food left uneaten or thrown away-- CVC and LuziCare, an organization founded by Jamie Goldring '09 to fundraise for medical care in Malawi, Africa, partnered up to put on a "Hunger Banquet." The event itself was spearheaded by LuziCare members Megan "Petie" Booth '11, Sarah Ramsay '11 and John Perkins '11, who is also involved with CVC. The banquet, held in the Lower Programming Space (LoPo) of Cotter Union on Thursday, April 23, divided students up into three separate groups. Upon entering the event, attendees received a number that correlated to one of the groups, each serving as a metaphor for a level of global resource availability.
Depending on their designated group, the students received a proportionate amount of food. The "top" 10 percent of banquet-goers received an abundant amount of food--a full meal--and were permitted to sit at tables, the "middle" 20 percent received just enough rice, beans and water, and sat in chairs while the bottom tier, consisting of 70 percent of the attendees, were given a meager amount of rice and water. They ate on the floor. Before students were allowed to eat, however, cards relating stories from members of each of these realworld groups were distributed. The top echelon was allowed to eat earlier than the rest, and was provided with accounts of wealthier citizens who expected good nutrition and education for their children, whereas members of the lower groups learned about families whose primary concerns include the chance that their children may die of hunger.
"It was a really concrete way to educate people on hunger and food security," Goldring said.
After the meal, a presentation was given, outlining a number of statistics provided by Oxfam (a group dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger) regarding worldwide food consumption and allocation. Among the more powerful messages was that while 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger, globally, enough food is produced feed 12 billion people- approximately two times the global population.
The slides also illustrated the disparity in the amount of money families from across the globe spend each week on their diets. In Germany, a family may spend $500.07 in a single week, whereas another family from Sicily logged $260.11 in weekly food expenses, with a North Carolina family falling right in between at $341.98.
Though the event had a markedly international leaning, the organizers stressed that "there are stark inequalities everywhere," including the United States, where one out of five American children fall below the poverty line. Moreover, Booth related the common misconception that hunger disparity is the result of the "circumstances [people are] born into." She explained that "it's more of a problem everywhere...its not just 'first world' versus 'third world.'" Overall, Goldring believes the event was a success, and cited the "enthusiasm of the underclassmen [organizers], Petie Booth, John Perkins and Sarah Ramsay." He noted that they "really took the lead with this event and I'm grateful for their support." While over 60 people came to the event, a number that Goldring described as "a full house," Perkins believes that there is still room for improvement.
"The students that went [to the event] were probably already conscious of the issues presented...it'd be great if we could get a wide cross section of students" in the future. Going forward, Perkins also hopes to potentially involve an entire dining hall in the Hunger Banquet.
LuziCare has been high-profile on campus with large fund-raising and awareness-raising events. It has raised approximately $3500 this year. Goldring hopes that LuziCare will continue to grow--he is excited about underclass enthusiasm.