Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hunger Banquet Raises Global Awareness

By Courtney Westlake

Students and other participants learned about the worldwide issues of hunger and even got a small taste of what life would be like going hungry during the 3rd annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

On Wednesday evening, November 14, UIS hosted the Hunger Banquet in the Great Room in Lincoln Residence Hall. The event is held in observance of National Hunger and Homelessness Week and focused this year on the theme "Poverty Has a Woman's Face."

During the Hunger Banquet, guests are randomly assigned high-, middle-, or low-income rankings and are served food that range from gourmet meals to small portions of rice and water, depending on the guest's designation.

The program also included a video, artwork, and displays, as well as a presentation by UIS student Shana Stine, who spent a month in Kenya, Africa last summer. Stine told the personal stories of several framed photographs of children she had taken while there.

"When you hear numbers like 854 million people are hungry today, we forget that for each number, there is a story and a face, and a lot of crying, a hungry belly and a lot of pain 854 million times over," Stine said. "I was blessed to spend the summer in Kenya, and it changed my whole perspective on life and what it means to be privileged. After living with hungry orphans most of my trip, I came back a changed person."

The name of the Banquet, "Oxfam", came from the original postal abbreviation for the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, which was started in England during World War II to provide relief to war victims in Europe. Oxfam America, an affiliate of Oxfam International, is a relief and development organization that works to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The purpose of the Hunger Banquet is to raise awareness of hunger nationally and internationally.

"The majority of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are women; poverty has extensive implications for women around the world," said Ashley Rook, who helped to coordinate the event. "For most of us in this room, we can't imagine what it would be like to be in a refugee camp or lose a relative to starvation."