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Hunger Banquet gives students a taste of disparities of wealth in the world

By Beth Murphy, Director of Marketing Communications 

Welcome to the Hunger Banquet. Please find your seat with others who are part of the same income level as you. 

We are here because:

  •  More than 2.1 billion people live in poverty. 
  •  Over 815 million people suffer from chronic hunger. 
  •  Every day, over 15,000 children under age 5 die from malnutrition or a related, preventable illness. That’s more than 10 children every minute. 

 And so began Scecina’s hunger banquet. 

“Hunger banquet.” The two words normally don’t go together, and that was the point of a role-playing exercise Scecina’s freshman took part in the Monday after Thanksgiving. 

Playing roles of low-, middle- or high-income people, the students experienced the disparities of wealth and poverty. The hunger banquet is meant to simulate the imbalanced distribution of food and opportunities in the world. Each student randomly chose a card to designate whether he or she would be high, middle or low income.

  • High-income students sat at nice tables on the stage and were served a banquet of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert.
  •  The middle-income group sat on chairs on the gym floor and had to go get their own meal of rice, beans, and water. Women went last, as is the tradition in some cultures.
  •  The low-income students sat on the floor and helped themselves to rice and water. Again, women went last.

 “A lot of students thought it was really unfair, but we pointed out that was kind of the point, that they see that (disparity),” explained English teacher Kathryn Wetzel. (Disclaimer: the low-income students received sandwiches afterward.) 

Ms. Wetzel’s interest in hunger and world food insecurity issues increased when she took students to the Youth Institute at Purdue University last spring. Her freshman English students had researched food insecurity in a chosen country and presented the research at Purdue. Scecina’s Amori Curiel then was chosen as an Indiana delegate to the Global Youth Institute, “which really is an international symposium actively solving problems and setting policy agendas for the world,” Ms. Wetzel explained. 

Amori and Ms. Wetzel attended the Global Youth Institute in October in Des Moines, where Amori took part in a hunger banquet, which was her favorite part of the three-day conference. 

Amori used the experience to speak to her fellow students at Scecina’s hunger banquet. The students also heard from Linda Clodfelter, a St. Philip Neri parishioner who has worked for years on poverty issues on the Eastside of Indianapolis. 

After the exercise, the freshmen were thinking about how it affected them. 

“I was in the low-income group, and they made me take my shoes off and sit on the floor. We ate rice and water, and that was it,” said Brian Orduna, who said he wished he had been in the high-income group. Madelynn Martin was a lucky one in the high-income group. 

“I felt good, but kind of bad because the others didn’t have as much,” said Madelynn, who learned that “we should always be grateful for what we have.” 

With the success of this year’s hunger banquet, Ms. Wetzel hopes to do it again next year. 

“It definitely had value,” she said. “We got feedback from the kids about how to improve it.”

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Noelle Paquette King ('86) wrote:
Well done Ms. Wetzel and Amori! Thank you for providing this impactful learning for students through rich experiences. It's also encouraging to hear that you are supporting reflective learning practice and are considering the feedback from the students for improvements next year. Keep up the good work Scecina!

Sat, December 8, 2018 @ 8:30 AM

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