Written by Steven Spear, Jr.
Last week I attended an event called a “Hunger Banquet.” The word “banquet” being in the event’s name made me think that I was going to be eating good food while learning about starving children around the world. Do you see the irony?
There was a table set up next to the entrance of the room, and I had to choose a face-down slip of paper from a basket. The workers of the event told me that this slip of paper determined how I would live during the event. Not really understanding what that meant, I reached into the basket and read the paper. I was in the low-income group and had to sit on the floor.
When I walked in, there were three distinct sections of the room. The low-income citizens sat on the floor, the middle-income citizens sat in chairs, and the high-income citizens sat in chairs at a nice, large table. Even though there was no rule against it, I realized that I only talked with people in my income group and no one outside of that group.
The event began, and everyone learned about hunger throughout the world: (according to UNCF)
- 8,000 children under the age of 5 die of malnutrition every day (3 million per year)
- 300 million children go to bed hungry every night
- 15% of the world is considered high-income
- 35% of the world is considered middle-income
- 50% of the world is considered low-income
The moderator then asked for twelve volunteers: six from the low-income group and six from the middle-income group. I jumped up and was the first volunteer. The moderator then told us that the six middle-income workers had gone on strike from their jobs at a manufacturing plant, and their boss had fired and replaced them with the six low-income workers. As a result, the middle-income volunteers moved to the low-income group, and the low-income volunteers moved to the middle-income group. After a few more simulations, the groups had been settled: I was in the middle-income group.
Now it was time to eat. As I am sure you can guess, the food we received depended on income-group. The low-income group received rice and water; the middle-income group (my group) received rice, beans, a tortilla, and water; the high-income group received rice, beans, a tortilla, chicken, and water or sweet tea. The moderator then told the high-income group to scrape off forty percent of their food into aluminum pans on the table. This represented the amount of food wasted in the United States each year. Think about that. Forty percent of our food is thrown away each year.
As we reflected on our time in the income group, I noted that the difference between the low-income group and the high and middle-income groups was opportunity—or rather, the lack of opportunity. These people just need a helping hand, or the resources of a non-profit organization dedicated to lifting their village or region out of poverty. “Over half of the world’s population is in the low-income group.” This is more than a statistic—these are hundreds of millions of real people with a real problem.
When you sit down to eat Thanksgiving Dinner with your family, remember that many people were not born into as favorable circumstances. As a person who has more opportunity and resources than tens of millions of others, it is my responsibility to give to those who do not. I found a group called the Food Recovery Network that collects good food that would normally be thrown away and distributes it to the homeless. How are you going to make a difference?