Students at CJ’s Oxfam Hunger Banquet this fall had an opportunity to experience the pangs of real world disparities that exist between those born into prosperity and poverty in our global society.
Sixty participants, mostly students, arrived to the cafeteria on the evening of Nov. 19 expecting dinner. And a majority of those folks -- like the majority of the world’s population -- were left feeling hungry.
“This event is a metaphor for how resources are inequitably distributed across the world,” senior Zach Thomas, MC, told his classmates as they sat randomly separated into three groups.
About 10 percent were seated and served at a fancy, candle-lit head table. Another 20 percent were invited to walk through a buffet line and assemble their own sandwiches. The rest, or roughly 40 people, were corralled onto a small space on the cold floor without chairs or eating utensils and could help themselves (men first, then women) to scoops of rice and cups of tepid water.
“Our students intended to show how inequality and not lack of food is the driving force behind issues of hunger and poverty,” said Mike Hoendorf, assistant director of ministry and service. The Hunger Banquet was sponsored and staffed by members of student groups FLIGHT (Faith Leaders In God’s Hands Today) and Marianist LIFE (Living in Faith Experience).
The learning experience elicited feelings of guilt and gratitude from students like senior Juleon Elmore, who had the fortune of sitting at the head table. “I felt like there was something I could do to help those without much food," Elmore said.
“This taught me that I’m very lucky to have food that I can rely on at home,” he said. “You can’t choose where you’re going to be born.”
Participants learned that even in America, more than 46 million people and one in five children are living below the poverty line according to Oxfam International. The non-profit organization encourages, mobilizes and provides planning materials to Hunger Banquet host partners.
CJ’s two-hour banquet ended with a prayer service and mixed small group discussion. It was the third time the school had hosted the event as part of its annual Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, which runs Nov. 18-25. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the office of ministry and service invites the entire CJ community to take part in outreach activities, service learning opportunities, and donation drives to raise awareness for these issues affecting our local community, nation and world.
To learn more about Oxfam Hunger Banquets, please visit www.oxfamamerica.org.