WKU banquet raises awareness to worldwide hunger

Foot Hood, Texas freshman Thai Bryant (left), Louisville, Ky. junior Shelby Campbell (middle) and Winchester, Ky. sophomore Emily Houston (right) eat their meal during the Hunger Banquet hosted by Housing Residents Life on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 in DSU. The students were divided into upper, middle and lower class and their meals were based on their class status. This interactive event helped students better visualize the reality of world hunger. Michelle Hanks/HERALD

Miles Schroader

A chattering group of more than 50 WKU students and faculty crowded a Hunger Banquet hosted Tuesday night by the WKU Housing and Residence Life for the event’s second year.

“We thought it would be a great thing to do to bring hunger awareness around the world to students at WKU,” Minnette Ellis, assistant director of WKU Housing and Residence Life, said.

As students arrived to the banquet, they were each randomly assigned an income class, which would determine their meal for the night. Lower income attendees received a small cup of rice and a cup of water, to represent the meal of the average low income citizen of the world earning under just $986 per year. 

“I wanted to learn more about being in someone else’s shoes on the hunger side,” Nashville sophomore Brittany Richardson said. “It was effective to learn about how other people don’t have as much as I do, and a cup of rice could be what feeds my whole family.”

Middle income attendees received a bowl of beans and rice with a cup of water to represent the meal of 35 percent of the world’s population earning between $987 and $11,999 per year. High income attendees received a full meal consisting of a salad, cake and both tea and water.

“I gained more of an understanding as to how prevalent hunger is, and just how many people live in poverty,” Owensboro freshman Mackenzie Duvall said. “I just became more informed on the whole situation.”

In her presentation during the banquet, Ellis spoke about the 2.5 billion people living in poverty around the world, encouraging people in attendance to consider how bad situations are in other parts of the world. She also brought up the fact that over 925 million people suffer from chronic hunger worldwide. 

“I wanted people to learn about people outside of themselves, what happens internationally, what hunger can look and feel like,” Ellis explained.

Students received character cards that represented a person from the class they were assigned to. Middle income and lower income characters rarely owned any type of land and in some cases not even a home. Lower income character cards often revealed that a member of their family had died. 

“My takeaway was that students, in particular, have to think about where they come from,” Jackie Pillow, coordinator of retention initiatives, said. “They need to think about people that are less fortunate than them. I think it was great to see the students realize the privilege they had, not even knowing that they had one.”

As the banquet wrapped up, everyone in attendance received a full meal consisting of pasta, chicken, salad, garlic bread, and cake. Some students felt humbled by the overall experience, including senior Emily Spink.

“My takeaway was that it’s humbling to see the situations that other people are in and realize that maybe I don’t have it as bad as the next person does,” Spink said. “It was humbling to see the different scenarios and realize I have what I have, and I’m thankful for that. I also realized I can bring awareness to the situation and get involved.”

Reporter Miles Schroader can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].