Wednesday, February 18th the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources College Ambassadors invited the University of Connecticut community to an Oxfam Hunger Banquet. According to their event website, “A Hunger Banquet is an event that focuses on worldwide hunger and poverty. It is an interactive dinner where the place that you sit and the meal that you eat are determined by the luck of the draw – just as in real life some of us are born into relative prosperity and others into poverty.”
Because the UConn Reads book for this year, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, focuses on food, this was one of the first related events students were excited to attend on campus to continue learning beyond the classroom. For a first-head telling of one UNIV 1820, UConn Reads student’s experience enjoy the second (and final) Student Guest Blog for the week.
Author: Samantha Crystal
Shared with permission
The Oxfam American Hunger Banquet is an event that is hosted every year here at UConn. It was a truly eye-opening experience, one that I will never forget.
I showed up to the event with two of my friends, not knowing what to really expect nor having much insight into the amount of poverty that plagues this world. When we got to the sign in table, we had to grab a name tag that was color coded (either yellow, green or purple), which indicated what class we would be considered in for the banquet. The name tag also had the life story of someone who would typically be considered middle class throughout the world. This gave me a better understanding of what each class of people truly entailed, but I still had a lot to learn.
The large had room had three sections, and the first one that caught my eye was to the far left, where round tables with white tablecloths were set up. These tables had real silverware and glasses and flower arrangements adorning the middle of the area. This would indicate the upper class
To the far right, there were simply chairs set up as though we would be watching a show. No tables, no silverware, just chairs. This indicated the middle class.
Finally, between each of these arrangements, there was a large group of people sitting on the floor. This was where those assigned as lower class sat.
I picked up a green nametag, so I sat as the middle class, which I originally thought would not be much different from what I experience in my day-to-day life (I was wrong). The host of the program made a speech about how hunger is a problem prevalent in today’s society, and then she started calling people up based on the name on their name tags. They read the short description that was on the back of their tag out loud, and then because of certain circumstances — either good or bad — they switched classes. Some upper-class workers were told to move to the middle class, and some lower class workers were told to move to the middle-class. This was eye-opening in that even though one may be born into a certain class, they have the ability to change if they so choose.
When dinner was finally served, the upper class was served eggplant rollatini with rolls and lemon water, the middle class was served rice, beans and corn with lemon water, and the lower class was served the rice that was leftover from the middle class and “dirty” water.
There were two significant things that happened throughout the dinner that made the night more impactful for me. The first was when I noticed the people posing as the upper class giving some of their food to the lower class. This was eye opening in that it showed people’s willingness to help one another, despite being in different economic classes. In the upper class section of the room there were military personnel on guard, as if to signify the protection the upper class has in terms of healthcare, food, and education that none of the other classes have.
This event definitely had an impact on the way I think about different classes. When the host was describing made up each of the classes, she said the upper class was classified by making more than 6,500 dollars a year. This came as a shock to me, and made me think about the United States and how fortunate we are to be considered an “upper class” country. The disparity between classes is definitely more well-known in my eyes.