Imagine being told the only things you could eat for dinner were garbanzo beans and rice.
Approximately 25 people found out that was their meal Saturday night when they participated in the Hunger Banquet at Culver Academies Lay Dining Hall. Clare Nowalk (Culver) conducted the event to bring attention to food security issues in the United States and the rest of the world.
More than 50 students and adults volunteered to take part in her senior service project. Each drew their dinner at random, declaing the holder as low income, middle income, or high income. The lower income people – representing 50 percent of the world’s population – were just given the beans and rice. The middle income people – representing 30 percent – ate the beans, rice, and vegetables. The high income people – 20 percent – received the full plate of chicken nuggets, beans, rice, vegetables, and dessert.
If we build with the little things, we can make a difference in the world.
The lower income people were also invited to sit on mats in one section of the dining hall because a majority of those throughout the world sit on the floor when they eat. The low and middle income people were allowed to go back for seconds and get a full meal if they wanted
Nowalk based her Hunger Banquet on the non-profit Oxfam model, but didn’t let people know in advance what they would be allowed to eat. “I was afraid nobody would show up if I did,” she smiled. Instead, she asked them to participate in the random drawing just before they picked up their food.
“It is just one part of my senior service project entitled ‘Food for the Future,’ which consisted of a series of actions and events to not only raise awareness about food insecurity and world hunger but empower students and teachers to continue working to combat it,” Nowalk said via email. She did ask participants for written comments and those who replied wrote that the evening “was not only eye opening, but engaging and interesting.”
“I was most touched by people’s interest in the project and their newfound passion for making a change,” she wrote. “I hope that everyone who was in the dining hall left with a heightened awareness of how blessed we are and the need for people, who are willing, to make a change.”
Along with the meal, Nowalk displayed graphics and played a video dealing with hunger. Some of the American statistics include:
- 20 million school-age children participate in the free or reduced school lunch program.
- 16 million children (1-in-5) struggle with hunger.
- 79 percent of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food to feed their family.
- 324 counties in the United States are considered high food-insecurity counties.
Nowalk hopes the Hunger Banquet spurs others to act. She added she was influenced by the food insecurity project that Alex Ding ’13 did her senior year.
“Often, it is easy to get sucked into the mindset that we are too small to have a positive impact and that big dreams cannot be achieved. However, if we build with the little things, we can make a difference in the world,” she said. “To me, the key is to not let ourselves be limited by the task itself and remember that we are only as incapable as we let ourselves be.”