By Lauren Foster ‘15
On Wednesday, November 19th the “Hunger Banquet” hosted by Campus Ministry took place in Cascia Hall. The event aimed to show students the realism of poverty and it’s effects across the globe.
According to Annie McDonnell ‘16 and Millie Boye ’16—the leaders of the Campus Ministry Council Service Subcommittee—the Hunger Banquet was designed to help the Merrimack community understand the effects that class and other social issues have on hunger in the world.
Throughout the year Boye and McDonnell work with other students in generating ideas for the event as well as other Campus Ministry staff to bring the Hunger Banquet to fruition.
Each attendee at the event was given the identity of an individual, including a career description and income level. Economic statuses ranged from high-income to low while seating arrangements varied from sitting on the stage to chairs to the floor. High income was treated to glass plates, flower centerpieces, wine glasses, and a waitress to serve them. Low-income attendees had a meal of rice while middle income had rice and beans.
“My person at the event was a high-income man who spent 8 AM to 11 PM every day selling post cards. My meal was a lot more plentiful than the others’—we had salad, chicken, rice, and cupcakes while the other classes only got just rice or rice and beans,” Molly Keeffe ‘17.
“They said the high income was $15,000 year, which is not much in America, but is considered wealthy in many other parts of the world,” Cait Wall ‘17 stated. “I was like living in a one bedroom apartment as a single man as a chef and I was considered high income. At the event I got a four course meal and was served and was given as much as I wanted to eat until I was full.”
“How $12,000 is considered rich in this world is pretty crazy, it’s not necessarily like that in our system in America, but still—it’s surreal to think about,” Chris Hynes, a sophomore, commented.
Hynes originally started the night at high income as he was given the identity of a siraco. He was later moved to the low-income section of the event because of the effect that global warming had on his salary.
“I thought it really brought into perspective [how] one little event like that such as global warming really can change your economic status real fast.”
Hynes was not the only attendee whose economic status changed throughout the night, which Keeffe noted was one of the most powerful moments of the event.
“I thought that was really powerful because it shows that that could happen to any of us like yes, you might make a lot of money, but you have to be grateful for what you have.”
As for the turnout at the event, both McDonnell and Boye were delighted. “We had a great turnout! We were really happy with the amount of students who attended and surpassed our goal of expected attendees,” Boye stated.
When can students expect to see the Hunger Banquet on campus again?
“While it isn’t an event that will happen annually, we hope to improve the event and be able to strengthen the discussion portion of the night, in order to focus on takeaways for students and how they can take the information that they learned to make a difference in our community,” McDonnell commented.
Although some attendees may have left with more in their stomachs than others, the impact of poverty was felt all around.
Wall commented, “I felt guilty sitting up there because most of the other people were sitting on the floor and only had a bowl of rice to eat. We were just finishing our first course by the time everyone else had finished their entire meal and as we continued on with our meal, everyone was just sitting there watching us.”
“As I was sitting up there on the stage, I did feel a little guilty watching everyone else sit on the floor and eat rice so it made me appreciate what I have to eat on a daily basis a lot more,” Keeffe stated.
“I think it really brought into perspective that how much food we waste so it really made me more mindful that I should eat all my food because people don’t have a lot of it in other places in the world,” Hynes concluded.