Universally, more than 2.5 billion people live in poverty and over 925 million people suffer from chronic hunger.
Every four seconds, a child dies from hunger or a preventable disease. That’s 22,000 children every day.
In an effort to fight world hunger, the members of Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization that seeks to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice, organized a hunger banquet on campus.
Before walking into the room, I was told to choose a card that would tell me which socio-economic class I was apart of. It’s important to note that the differentiations between upper, middle and lower classes weren’t based on American standards, but rather determined from a global perspective. My card put me in the middle class and I was directed to sit in a chair against the wall. As I looked around, I noted a roped off table where upper class members sat with a salad, water and utensils. The members of the middle class seated against the wall and the lower class participants placed on the floor had nothing.
Once it was time to eat, the upper class was served pasta with vegetables in addition to their salad.
The middle class was told to serve themselves, men first. Our meal consisted of rice and beans in a very small bowl.
The lower class then had to serve himself or herself the leftover rice from the middle class. They did not have a bowl or utensils and had to eat the rice with their hands.
After the demonstration, Andy Jones a professor in the School of Public Health spoke to the group. He noted that we should be mindful of our food and be conscious of where it came from. He also explained that our planet produces enough crops to feed the planet’s population, but due to economic and societal structures, 50% of our world lives in poverty. To put this into perspective, poverty on a global standard means that you make less than $986 a year, which in turn equates to $2.70 a day.
The middle class represents 35% of our world, earning between $987 and $11,999 a year. All it would take was losing one harvest or a draught to throw you into poverty. Only 15% of the world qualifies as high-income group, with a per capita income of $12,000 or more. Keep in mind that one semester of out of state tuition here at the University of Michigan is $22,000 dollars.
To conclude the hunger banquet, the Student Food Co. spoke to us about their organization. After surveying U of M students, they found that 15,000 students don’t have access to healthy food outside the dining halls. On campus, there are few grocery stores easily accessible to students meaning that Ann Arbor is a prime example of a food dessert. To combat this, every Friday in Haven Hall the Student Food Co. sells locally grown, fresh produce from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in order to provide students with healthy and affordable produce.
For me, the hunger banquet was an eye opening, intense and educational experience, and helped to illuminate the injustices of our world. Senior Erika Shaid notes of her experience, “I was in the middle income group, so all I got to eat was a small bowl of rice and beans. As my stomach grumbled, the hardest part was knowing that as soon as I got home, I could make myself a full dinner to eat. This is not the reality for the majority of the world.”
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Others noted how lucky many of us are to have the option of having dietary restrictions. While many people at U of M are vegetarian, vegan, gluten or dairy free, most of our world doesn’t have the luxury to pick and chose the types of food they put into their body. The majority of people are forced to eat only what they can afford or find to survive.
As Thanksgiving approaches, take a moment and reflect on your privilege. Be thankful that we have the capita to eat three meals a day and consider those that do not have the same luxury. Because of this discrepancy, it is up to us to aid in the fight against world hunger. As Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu says, “World hunger is man made and only we can end it.”
To donate to the fight against world hunger, go to Oxfam’s website and learn more.