Hunger Banquet

By: Viraj Patel

More than 250 students attended this year’s Hunger Banquet, put together by Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College on Monday, Nov. 10.

This annual banquet gives students and community members the opportunity to see how people of different income levels live. They experience a meal based on the world food distribution while conversing about issues of hunger and sustainability.

All of the participants were given randomly assigned character cards that involved imaginary profiles of people living in different circumstances. These character cards were distributed among the low-income, middle-income and high-income groups, in order to make the students aware about the disparities in the food community.

As the conversation continued, the speakers introduced people to their characters by creating hypothetical scenarios that could occur in their lives.

One of the profiles followed this scenario: You are a 23 year old veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  You suffered from traumatic brain injury and, as a result, have been unemployed since you returned from active duty.  You now move to the middle income group.

The students were actively participating in the event by representing the assigned cards.

“So my character lived in the middle of Miami and had been inspired by Growing Power to construct a mini garden on top of her complex roof,” said, Honors College freshman, Megan Fuerstenau. “That’s one way to acquire access to healthy food. I’ll have to remember this just in case I find myself living in a city someday.”

The students also got an understanding of how the lower income group lives.

“My character stays near Gasabo, Rwanda and lives in a shack made of tin and scraps of wood,” said Olusegun Hazeez-Agbaje, an architecture major. “The Hunger Banquet gave me a reality check by telling me how children are born into poor families randomly and not by choice.”

The event was managed with the coordination of volunteers helping serve the high income group as well as managing the low and middle income groups. As the students kept on shuffling from one group to another, they were told to help themselves to their food.

“As I was serving the high income group I noticed that they had the luxury of eating salads and desserts, while the lower income group was stuck in a big line to get rice and water,” said Ben Kreiter, an Honors College freshman, who volunteered for the event.

Tim Nichols, dean of Honors College, introduced a set of panelists for the night.

“This year’s Hunger Banquet holds special significance for us because The Good Food Revolution was the common read and it relates to Will Allen’s work to improve access to good food.” Nichols said.

The panelists focused on the food system in and around Brookings and the problems associated with it.

Julie Ross of Good Roots, an organization that offers fresh, locally grown food to the Brookings community, found that some of the information from the event is surprising for students and community  members.

“You’ll be surprised that the reason people don’t eat healthy food is not because it is not available, but because they don’t know how to cook it,” Ross said.

Panelist JoLee Frederickson, Director of University Food Service at Aramark, mentioned the sources of the food the students are served around the campus.

“We buy all the ice cream from The Dairy Bar on campus, some vegetables from local markets in and around Brookings and we try to make sure that it is beneficial in all the aspects to everyone,” Fredrickson said.

The Hunger Banquet ended with an announcement about his year’s final common read event which will be the screening of the film, Farmland, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, sponsored by the SDSU Swine Club.