Anti-hunger banquet coming to campus

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Story by Emily Albrent

The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet will be held at UW-Eau Claire from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 28 in the Council Fire Room of Davies Center.

According to the its website, Oxfam America is an organization that strives to find solutions to help end world hunger, poverty and injustice. Oxfam has groups in more than 90 countries that strive to reach a world without poverty.

One of the ways that the organization tries to spread the word about hunger is with events such as the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet.

Director of the Student Life and Diversity Commission of Student Senate Linda Lee said that the event is free to all attendees and will focus mainly on hunger and food in the Eau Claire area.

“We have decided to localize the experience,” Lee said.  “The Oxfam America Hunger Banquet is more the global hunger aspect. We actually wanted to narrow it down to more of a domestic appeal to students at UW-Eau Claire.”

The banquet will function first as a submersion experience, along with speakers who will talk about aspects of food and hunger.

Lee said it can be hard for people to understand how scarce food is for other people. She said events like this give people a chance to experience just how difficult food shortages can be.

Jeff DeGrave, a geography professor at Eau Claire and one of three speakers at the event, said he thinks that Eau Claire is a good place for this event.

“We are in a farming community,” DeGrave said. “Perhaps we are not aware of the changes in our agricultural systems as maybe we should be, since we are the dairy state.”

DeGrave will talk about food and justice as well as food consumption and production in the United States.

The other two speakers at the event will be Rachel Keniston of the Community Table and Christian Wise of Blugold Dining Services. Blugold Dining will also be providing the food for the event.

Keniston will be speaking about the Community Table’s efforts to combat hunger, while Wise will be lecturing about becoming educated about food and what is going to change the aspect of hunger.

When people first come to the event, they will be randomly put into three different class groups:  lower, middle or upper.

Lee said that around 4 to 5 percent of people will be placed in the higher class, 20 percent will be in the middle and the rest will be in the low-income class.

After being sorted into the three different income groups, Lee stated that the audience will then be given food that goes with that class as a simulation of what they can afford to eat: a complete meal for upper, rice and beans for middle and just rice for the lower.

However, details are still being finalized and the meal may instead feature a more Americanized menu.

After a speech from Lee, the audience will have the opportunity to go back and get whatever else they want to eat.

Lee said that she wanted to shock people into realization that hunger does happen and that it is an issue both in the United States and in the Eau Claire community.

DeGrave said hunger effects every single person, and he thinks this event is a great way to tell the backstory of the food Americans eat and the impact that they have on the lives of those who produce the food.

“I encourage anybody who is interested in eating or food to turn up.”