Hunger banquet gives real-world perspective

Written by: 
Samone Isom ~ Multimedia Journalist

A half-cup of rice or a plateful of meat and vegetables. Participants didn’t know which they would call their dinner as they entered the Hunger Banquet, but as they ate their allotted portion, they were urged to take action against hunger.  

Brandon Bodkin, a senior in political science from California, organized the event. He said, “The point is to raise awareness for world hunger and let people experience how people in other parts of the world eat. How much, or rather, how little they eat. We are also doing a food drive in November, so hopefully this will kick it off.” 

Put on by the McKay Center on Nov. 4, the Hunger Banquet simulates three different economic classes from the world’s population. During the event, participants were split into these classes based on real world numbers. Because 10 percent of the world is upper class, for the simulation at the banquet only six participants ate unlimited amounts of meat, vegetables and rice off of real dishes with tall glasses of juice to drink.

Thirty percent of the world is middle class. Accordingly, a larger group was given a generous helping of rice and vegetables and large plastic cups of water. Sixty percent of the world is lower class, so the rest of the people participating in the banquet sat on the ground with a cup half-filled with rice and just one drink of water. 

Sery Kone, a junior in finance from the Ivory Coast, shared his childhood experience with hunger. “I know what it is to have this [one cup of rice]. Sometimes I would eat this once a day, or once every two days. I’m so grateful for the person who came up with this. It reminded me of where I was 15 years ago. It has helped me reinforce my desire to do good. You don’t know what you have done to me today,” he said. Kone is the president of Enactus and has created an NGO called Well Africa. “I don’t want people to come to Africa to fix Africa. Come to help them fix themselves.” 

You Sophorn (Rany), a senior in university studies from Cambodia, shared her experience as a child gathering with her extended family for dinner in their home without light. The food was heaped on only two plates. “There wasn’t enough, so we all ate really fast. It was fun, but also sad.” She said now that her family is better off, they help the poor by giving them food or water, but not money. “That’s one of the greatest things I think my family does.”  

Rand Blimes, a professor of political science, relayed a story of Dr. Amporn Wuthanavongs, who went from a street orphan in Bangkok to a diplomat for Thailand. Dr. Wuthanavongs started a daycare for Bangkok’s street children, and his purpose, according to Blimes, was simply to feed them one healthy meal a day. 

Blimes explained how LDS Church members giving a generous fast offering is a regular way people can help. “You should feel a little pinch when you give a fast offering. If you do that, you’ll fend off this process of convincing yourself that you can’t do anything because you are doing something. It doesn’t matter what you do, but for Pete’s sake do something! Because if you don’t, the information you get tonight will turn you into a cold, uncaring person, and you don’t want to be that way,” Blimes said.

Kasha Coombs, a senior in peacebuilding from California, was one of the few at the “upper class” table. Coombs said, “I realized how much I really have and how much we can do. I was saying ‘amen’ to everything Rand was saying.”