This past Monday, November 12, our Spoon chapter at Bryant hosted our first Oxfam Banquet. This event was free to attend because the goal was to raise awareness about food insecurity and hunger both worldwide and locally. Overall, this event was a success! We raised money to donate to Oxfam, but more importantly, we raised awareness.

What is an Oxfam Banquet?

Oxfam itself is an international organization that is dedicated to fighting poverty injustice around the world. They want to find real solutions to the problems of poverty and inequality, rather than just donating food or money to fix them temporarily. One part of Oxfam's solutions is increased education about these issues. When people are more informed, they gain the ability to come up with better, more innovative solutions to the problem.

The Oxfam Hunger Banquet is one event that educates people about the far-reaching effects of poverty in our world. During the event, there is also a speaker who talks about their experience with hunger in their community. At our Banquet at Bryant, we had Sue AnderBois, the Director of Food Strategy for the State of Rhode Island, speak about hunger in our community and how we can get involved in ending hunger around our campus.

This is how the Banquet works: when you walk into the banquet hall, you draw a card out of a bowl. Each card has one of three categories written on it: high-income, middle-income, or low-income. The card you draw when you walk in determines how you are seated at the banquet and exactly what meal you will be eating that night.

High Income:

If you draw a high-income card, you are seated at a nice round table with comfortable chairs. There are linens setting the table, silverware and nice glasses for you to use, and beautiful flower centerpieces for decoration. To drink, you get water, as well as a choice of seltzer or lemonade. For a meal, you are served salad (with choice of dressing), rolls, and meat lasagna. Seconds of everything are offered and encouraged. For dessert, you get a choice of chocolate or white cake, and the slices are generously portioned. Throughout the meal, you are taken care of by waiters and waitresses who make sure your cups are full and your needs are met. 

Middle Income:

Rafaella Simonyan

If you draw a middle-income card, you are seated at a long, communal style table. You get one cup filled with water to start, but you can refill it yourself from the pitcher as you please. To eat, you get up and wait in line for a buffet-style serving of rice and black beans that you scoop yourself before returning to your seat. 

Low Income:

Rafaella Simonyan

If you draw a low-income card, you are seated on the floor on a rug in the middle of the room. When you are told you can eat, you get up to get your allotted portion of food, which is one scoop of rice and one cup of water. You are not allowed seconds, and you are not allowed to take food from anyone else at the event.

The Banquet is for 100 people. There are 20 people who will draw a "high income" card, 30 people with a "middle income" card, and 50 people with a "low income" card. This is because those percentages—20%, 30% and 50%—are the basic percentages of the countries in the world who fall into those three categories.

Why I Love the Oxfam Hunger Banquet

I attended a small, religious high school where a teacher used to do the Oxfam Hunger Banquet at my school every year. I attended the banquet 3 of my 4 years in high school, and it was consistently one of the most moving events I had ever seen. When you sit on the floor as the event comes to a close, feeling hungry because you only at 1/2 cup of rice, you feel for one moment a fraction of the hunger that 50% of the world living on less than $2 per day feels every single day. For one moment, you are connected to those people, and you realize how huge of an issue hunger really is.

Rafaella Simonyan

We are fortunate enough to live in a high-income country, where we have an excess of food. In fact, Americans waste 40% of the food that we produce on average. That is absurd. That is food that people who are starving could use, but instead we throw it away because we are full or because it doesn't look picture-perfect. However, that is not to say that every American has enough food. About 40 million people are hungry in the United States. This problem is not oceans away, but right outside our front door.

Being a part of Spoon University, we deal with the excess of food most often, rather than the absence of it. We order lots of food at restaurants because it is trendy or to get good pictures, but we don't always finish all of it. We hire food trucks at events, or buy apples to decorate a table, but we don't think about what happens afterwards. What happens to all of that unused food?

When I became president of Bryant's Spoon chapter, my first mission was to bring the Oxfam Hunger Banquet that I loved so much from high school to my college community. I wanted to share this eye-opening experience with my peers and educate them on how 80% of the world does not have enough food to eat every day. I wanted to spread the message of Oxfam and the lessons that are learned at the Banquet so that the Bryant community could be more educated on poverty and food insecurity.

The Outcome

Lisa Russo

After Bryant's first Oxfam Hunger Banquet ended, I received feedback from attendees who told me how powerful the event was. People told me that they learned more than they thought and that they wanted to get involved in fighting world hunger. 

Our chapter at Bryant is already planning on doing this Oxfam Hunger Banquet again next year, and hopefully every year after that! We want to make a difference because we know how important food is to people. Now that our eyes are open to the issue of poverty and hunger, we cannot shut them again. 

I would like to encourage you to learn more about Oxfam and their mission, as well as facts about hunger in general. If you are local to Bryant, I encourage you to get involved in helping end hunger in the state of Rhode Island by volunteering at a local food bank or with organizations like Hope's Harvest. Together, we can end world hunger.