Oxfam Hunger Banquet

April 09, 2012

On Monday, April 9th, the VVS community participated in an Oxfam-inspired Hunger Banquet.  The Hunger Banquet is designed to teach how food and other resources are unevenly distributed throughout the world. It puts hunger into context. This event was organized by the students working on the VVS Millennium Development Goals (MDG) project.  Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is the first United Nations’ MDG.

Caroline Diehl, our MDG program director, asked that everyone be open-minded and give this one hour and one meal (out of all the meals they will partake in this year) to actively think about hunger and poverty.  Hunger is a reality for nearly 2.5 billion people every day. According to Oxfam, an international relief organization devoted to developing solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice, nearly 50 percent of the people on the planet live in extreme poverty – struggling to survive on less than $2.70 a day.

Monday’s diners included students, teachers and many local VVS parents, all of whom picked a ticket at random as they entered the dining hall. The ticket determined their status, and therefore, their place at dinner. Fifteen percent of the diners  were seated at cloth-covered, candle-lit tables in the balcony; thirty-five percent of the diners were seated on chairs; the remaining fifty percent sat on the floor.   David Harootonian, Shenandoah Cornish and Dako Lesman explained the meaning of each seating area: those on the balcony represented the high income group of people who are fortunate enough to have a nutritious daily diet and live a relatively secure, comfortable life. Those in chairs represented the middle income group who have varying levels of access to food and security; most have jobs and some access to education, but they live on the edge and can easily slip into the low income group.  Those on the floor represented the vast majority of people on the planet for whom life is a continual struggle for daily survival.  They are frequently hungry, have no access to adequate health care, and little or no chance for formal education.  

At Monday’s dinner, those seated on the floor were given water, brown rice and flour tortillas and ate communally with no individual serving dishes or utensils. Those seated in the chairs were served a bowl of rice and beans and water and were told they could have seconds. The diners on the balcony enjoyed a dinner of steak, shrimp scampi, asparagus, and twice-baked potatoes, followed by strawberry shortcake for dessert.  The contrast between the experience of those in the balcony and those below was pronounced.

Raffle tickets were sold for several weeks before, and also during the banquet, to raise money for school fees for deserving girls in Malawi. Thanks to generous local donors – Desert Flour, Blue Moon Café, Cucina Rustica, Shadow Rock Grill at the Hilton, Rene’s in Tlaquepaque, Sedona Hot Yoga, Heart of Sedona Coffee, Bike and Bean, It’s Movie Time, Katie Chorlton Massage, NY Bagels and Pizza, and New Frontiers– the students raised $2,500 dollars.  This money will provide 25 girls with the necessary school fees to attend secondary school for one year.  

A number of students helped with the event, including Sophia Wastenays, David Harootoonian, Dako Lesman, Blue Sheffer, Sam Miles, Sam Grandaw, Alexa Szombathy, Emma Nyguen, David Sabih, Sonata Brokeviciute, Matt Schupack, Vicky Wu, Rebecca Weiss, Nic Plum, Seffa Klein, Habiba Warren, and Shenandoah Cornish.

Dako reminded participants that when they left the dining hall for the evening their “hardship” would be over, but for many people it is not that simple.  He asked that everyone share their thoughts about various aspects of the presentation and reflect on how we can inspire change.

For more information on the MDG Malawi Project, click here.

For more photos of the dinner click here.


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