Emmy Laing: Oxfam Hunger Banquet
The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet event was hosted in Phifer Commons of Gage Memorial Union on Monday, November 16th. Co-hosted between the Office of Community Engagement & the Coe Human Rights Advocates, the event was the representation of National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness week on campus in coordination with multiple food and clothing drives hosted by individual students across campus. Our banquet hosted 30 people to learn about hunger issues on local, regional, national, and global levels. The student assistants in the Office of Community Engagement served as the Masters of Ceremony within the event and shared with the audience how each individual could be impacted.
Emmy Laing (Coe College Junior, Master of Ceremony)
Can you tell us why it was important to have an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet on Coe’s Campus this semester?
The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet was chosen as the Office of Community Engagement’s primary event for National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, which occurs the week before Thanksgiving. We really wanted to have an event that would have an impact on students, and open their eyes to hunger in our community, as well as around the world. We knew that Coe had a successful Oxfam Banquet in the past, and wanted to bring it back again this year. The Oxfam Banquet is an engaging and informative event, and we felt it would accomplish our goal of bringing attention to hunger.
What was your favorite part about participating in the event?
Since I was one of the leaders of the event, I knew the students would be assigned to specific meals based on a random character cards listing one of three class statuses. Students attending the event didn’t know what to expect, so my favorite part was seeing them realize that their class status would be changed. It was eye-opening to see students realize that hunger is a real, tangible thing for people in our world, and in our own community. I also enjoyed watching the students in the low class group being hesitant to eat the rice with their hands, until we talked about how if you were actually hungry you wouldn’t be so picky.
Within the event, there were leftovers from the high class meal (which was a meat based meal with a side of vegetables). How did this make you feel knowing that there was a large group of participants sitting on the floor eating rice with their bare hands?
It makes me think about all the food we waste, without even giving it a second thought. We asked students assigned to the low class group how they felt knowing the high class group had extra. They reported feelings of anger and distress, as well as questions like “How is this fair? Why me?”. Their responses helped make it seem more real, like there really are people in our own neighborhood who are hungry, and that we could solve that problem by donating our extras.
What would you tell students looking at participating in this event in the future?
I would recommend students participate in this event, even if they don’t know what it is. It is kind of the whole point of the event to come in blind, because then the event has the most impact. The Oxfam Hunger Banquet is informative, and is a meaningful way to learn about hunger. You don’t just listen to facts; you actually get to participate in an event and discuss your reactions and feelings with your peers. And, you either get a good meal out of the event, or you will take away the value of a good meal. Whichever class you are assigned to, you realize the importance of the food we are lucky enough to have, and will maybe think twice later about how much we take for granted.
What do you believe was the biggest take-away point from the evening?
My biggest takeaway came from reading the script at the event. I learned that hunger isn’t about poverty, but about power. The most influential statement was “You may think hunger is about too many people and too little food. That is not the case. Our rich and bountiful planet produces enough food to feed every woman, man, and child on earth. Hunger is about power. Its roots lie in inequalities in access to resources. The results are illiteracy, poverty, war, and the inability of families to grow or buy food”. I found this meaningful because hunger isn’t due to there not being enough food in the world, but from those without power lacking access to the resources they need.
What did you enjoy or learn the most from our guest speaker, Tom Wieseler of Coe’s own Sodexo?
I thought it was really awesome to hear that Sodexo donates leftover food to the community. I had never even thought about where the extra food goes, because thankfully, being hungry is something I don’t have to worry about. Tom talked about how the types of food Sodexo donates (like rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables) are the types of foods that Food Banks really need. I am glad to know that Sodexo gives back to the community, and that perfectly good food doesn’t go to waste, and can help those in need.
Thank you to Emmy, a student assistant in the Office of Community Engagement, an ICAP, and a Master of Ceremonies for this event.