Experiencing Hunger

The Community Service Center at California Lutheran University hosted a Hunger Banquet in Ullman 100 March 1.

The event was intended to simulate the three general income levels of high, middle and low, which then determined each participants’ dinner.

“Everyone on this earth has the same basic needs and it’s in our own circumstances, where we live and the culture where we are born, that differ,” Community Service Center intern Ana Sofia Campos said.

Participants randomly picked slips of paper that had information regarding their character for the night, including names, which income level they belonged in, and where they lived.

There was also a phone number to text that gave more information regarding what they specifically did for a living and specifically how much money they made.

Dining placements were based off of income levels. The high-income group was seated at a table with assorted drinks, linens and utensils. The middle-income group was placed at a table with a lesser variety of utensils than the high-income table.

“Hunger is all about power. Its roots lie in inequality in access to resources,” Community Service Center intern Laura Willits said.

The low-income group was seated at a table with no tablecloth or chairs and only one pitcher of tap water.

Cell phones were put into a bin at the low-income table in order to simulate circumstances where participants can not afford them.

Campos and Willits gave a brief overview on the basic aspects of how each income level lives.

Every grain matters: Amanda Oyao eats rice from the palm of her hand as part of the low economic class at the Hunger Banquet.
Every grain matters: Amanda Oyao eats rice from the palm of her hand as part of the low economic class at the Hunger Banquet.

Willits said the high-income included those able to afford a complete meal, live in security and have access to the best medical care, making up about 15 percent of the population.

“The middle-income group represents roughly about 35 percent of the nation, with earnings that vary from relative comfort to being one setback away from poverty,” Campos said.

Willits said the low-income group estimated about 50 percent of the population, where basic needs such as food, water and shelter are a daily struggle.

For dinner, the high-income participants were served a full meal first. They were offered all of the food available, including meat, sides and dessert.

The middle-income group were served next and were initially offered any of the food the first income group did not finish, except for the meat that was treated as a luxury food item which only the high-income group could afford.

Lastly, the low-income group was given one bowl of steamed rice that had to be shared amongst themselves.

The low-income group was only given one paper cup, which they then had to choose between filling it with rice or filling it with water to drink.

“That was eye-opening, because you don’t think about how much food other people have when you usually have enough for yourself,” senior Kaylee Bosey said.

Meg Horton, volunteer coordinator from Ventura County Food Share, gave a presentation and spoke about food aid and local volunteer opportunities in Ventura County.

“We distribute 1 million pounds of food every month, which helps about 75,000 people in need every month in Ventura County alone,” Horton said.

Horton said that 49 percent of the population in Ventura County qualify for food aid because of the high cost of living in southern California.

“People forget that it is prevalent, even in Thousand Oaks, and I want people to remember that they can take action to help,” Campos said.

Their second speaker Christina Forino talked about the global aspects to hunger and food aid.

“The UN declared a famine on Feb. 24 in Sudan, with horrendous statistics that point out that 40 percent of that country’s population is in urgent need of food,” Forino said.

Forino also encouraged participants to donate or volunteer, mentioning that countries in Africa such as Zimbabwe are in need of $1.5 billion in aid, while it only receives about $1.5 million from donors.

Participants were asked to reflect within their income groups and discussed what it meant to be in their income-level around the world.

“I grew up in an area where many of my classmates were getting food stamps, so I knew the plights. But I wanted to see on a more global level what was going on and what I can do to help,” junior Ani Kodabakshian said.

Rebecca Austin
Staff Writer