Hungry students filed into Emerson’s Faculty Dining Room on February 27 at 5:30PM for the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. Sponsored by The Office of Service, Spirituality and Social Responsibility (SSSR), Hungry Lyons, and Aramark, this simulation in hunger awareness brings the Wheaton Community closer through an understanding of hunger problems facing the United States.
Oxfam’s mission is to help create lasting solutions to the inequality of poverty. Part of global movement for change, Oxfam empowers people to work toward a poverty-free future.
Isabel Goncalves ‘15, the Community Service Intern in SSSR, helped plan the 2014 Oxfam Hunger Banquet and commented on the importance this event holds to the Wheaton community, “I think the Oxfam hunger banquet is an awareness simulation. I think placing yourself in a situation and playing the part has more of an impact than reading some numbers on a screen or advertisement.”
Upon entering, participants received new identities and split into three socioeconomic levels, low income, middle income, and high income. Dean Vereene Parnell opened the event with inspiring words on empathy and the use of imagination to really internalize the truths of global hunger. Her words of wisdom were followed by a heart-felt speech by Goncalves who spoke on The Greater Boston Food Bank as well as severe hunger issues as close to home as Bristol County, MA.
Situated about the room, the low class sitting on the floor, the middle class sitting at bare tables, and the high class placed around a four course meal table setup, participants listened as Goncalves read aloud a realistic economic situation. One member of the high class was faced with making a decision: to buy fair trade coffee beans or U.S. based. His simple choice to decline fair trade coffee beans caused a member of the middle class to join the lower class on the floor and for a lower class member to go hungry.
Kelsey Babcock ‘16, a low class participant in the stimulation, commented on her experience, “While I was not moved from one socio economic class to another I was the one character in the lower class population who was only served 1/2 a bowl of rice due to a change in preference in the upper class which then moved a middle class member to the lower class in turn decreasing my profits.” Babcock continued with, “This situation felt unfair to me as everything that occurred was completely out of my hands, the decision of an individual in the upper class completely changed my lifestyle.”
The Oxfam Hunger Banquet has been an event hosted by SSSR at Wheaton sporadically for over seven years and has extreme value to the Wheaton community. Babcock explained that the event, “drove home the point that ‘getting help’ is often out of the hands of those who need it most.”
Goncalves concluded with, “I hope students can have a real understanding of the effects on hunger and that’s why I tried to provide information that was more domestic versus worldwide. I think there is a realness to saying what The Cupboard of Kindness and the GBFB do for the greater Boston area and Massachusetts in general.”