Westminster College hosted its Annual Hunger Banquet last night in Dolores Dore Eccles Health, Wellness and Athletic Center (HWAC)’s special events room. The interactive event also included a presentation from Utahns Against Hunger.
At the beginning of the banquet, each participant drew an income level at random which divided the room into the three classes — low income, middle income and high income. Each class had a designated seating area and meal at the banquet.
Those in the low-income group sat on the floor and ate a meal of basic noodles. The middle-income group sat at a bare table and ate noodles with tomato sauce. The high-income group sat at a table with a tablecloth and utensils, and this group was served a full, nutritious meal which included salad and dessert.
“We had to pick from a bowl of names and whichever name you got determined your class, it was randomized,” said student Denise Zivkovic, who had been seated at the high-income table.
In addition to the sorting, a handful of students received names of characters and paragraphs describing that particular character’s struggles. Students from the Westminster Theater Department narrated the event and helped tell the story of these characters and how some rose out of poverty, while others fell into it.
As the night continued, the three groups were finally allowed to eat, starting with the high-income table. After the high-income group ordered what they wanted, the middle-income group served themselves from a buffet. The low-income group then joined the buffet line although men were instructed to go before the female-identifying members. This was to show how women are often more impacted by poverty, according to the event organizers.
People in the low-income group, who had been seated on the floor, were allowed to help themselves to noodles and water alone and were not given utensils. While students in the middle-income groups were given noodles with marinara sauce and water.
After each class had their food, guest speaker Karen Rodriguez, outreach manager for Utahns Against Hunger, gave a presentation to the participants.
Rodriguez began by asking students to participate in a trivia game to learn more about hunger in the United States. After the game, Rodriguez explained the difference between the physical feeling of hunger and the measure of food security. Food security is a measure of having reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food.
According to Rodriguez, approximately 30 percent of students on college campuses struggle with hunger, living off of Cup-O-Noodles a day or worse. With Westminster’s student population, she calculated that around 500 students at Westminster struggle with food insecurity.
“It was eye opening,” said junior public health Lasana Trawally in a message to The Forum. “Most of the stuff, like the inequality, is something that I was aware but I was kind of surprised by some of the numbers. Like the number of college students going through food insecurity, is definitely a lot higher than I would’ve expect.”