Hunger Banquet brings food insecurity in United States to light

Students participate in a social experiment distributing food based on class and income level in the Student Union Ballroom. (Kobe Amos/The Daily Campus)

Students participate in a social experiment distributing food based on class and income level in the Student Union Ballroom. (Kobe Amos/The Daily Campus)

On Monday, Community Outreach hosted its annual Hunger Banquet in hopes of teaching the student population about food insecurity around the world. The event is meant to work in conjunction with their food drive, which can be found all across campus.

The event started with each attendee getting split into one of three classes based on a sheet of paper handed to them detailing someone’s life story. These stories were based upon the real life experiences of people around the world and explained why they were placed in their specific class.

Each group had an extremely different dining experience. Those placed in the upper class were seated at a well decorated table and served a salad and chicken by a waiter. The middle class sat at an ordinary table and served themselves pasta with marinara sauce and a roll of bread with plastic plates and silverware. The lower class, unfortunately, was forced to sit on the floor. They were given rice and beans in a paper cup which they had to eat with their hands, as they were not given silverware. They were also given “dirty water” that had been dyed with tea to represent the lack of access to clean water around the world.

Seventh-semester political science major Sarah Marshall was assigned to the lower class and couldn’t help but be jealous of the upper and middle class.

“Just hearing the silverware clink and hearing the glasses clink, it’s a little annoying because what college student doesn’t love free food… we need to sit here and eat rice and beans when you see them getting chicken,” Marshall said.

Carlie Cassells, a first-semester allied health sciences major, had a very different experience sitting at the upper class table. Cassells felt very privileged to sit at the upper class table, and said that it was almost impossible to not feel sympathetic for the people in the lower class.

“They’re right next to us, so you kind of want to help them out, but in reality you aren’t sitting right next to the people who are starving,” Cassells said.

A presentation on the facts and figures on food insecurity played in the background as people ate. Attendees were shown startling statistics, like how one in six people in the United States are food insecure, and how 127,400 Connecticut children deal with food insecurity. Attendees were also shown a video about an American family facing hunger and the lengths they will go to feed their family, expertly detailing the hunger disparity in the United States.

The presentation was followed by group discussions, where attendees discussed their experience, what they learned and how they can make change. The event directors urged those in attendance to be a force for change, as we cannot end food insecurity without action.

Director of Community Outreaches Campus Wide Initiative Brittany Chiu, hoped that this experience would help people realize the problem food insecurity poses both nationally and internationally.

“It gives you more understanding that this does not just exist globally, it’s here in America and here in Connecticut. It just shows that inequality and all these different social issues still exist, even for America,” Chiu said.

Assistant Director of Campus Wide Initiative Priyanka Thakkar, shared Chiu’s sentiment.

“A lot of people in this world do not have these opportunities that we have, and that it only takes one day to put yourself in their shoes,” Thakkar said. “There’s no one face to hunger. It could be you, it could be me, we don’t know who is food insecure.”

“There’s about 40 people at this banquet today and if each of them spread it to two other people and told them “don’t waste too much food in the dining hall” or “reduce your water intake” it would make a big difference in the overall university and our community and then our country as a whole.”


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.