Utah Valley University had its tenth annual Hunger Banquet on Feb. 21 in the Grande Ballroom in hopes to show participants the reality of poverty.
Sitting down on newspapers spread across the floor in the dark, 400 UVU students ate beans and rice. The students ate and talked with anticipation and curiosity. Atop a small stage was a table seated for ten. These ten, which represented the rich one percent, were served a cordon bleu chicken dinner with side courses, dessert and drinks.
“UVU is such a great school that allows students to get out of their comfort zone,” said Elizabeth Jarema, a UV mentor liaison and the Hunger Banquet’s director.
There were two different groups the participants were eligible to join: “the poor,” comprising nearly everyone, and “the rich,” ten lucky individuals chosen from the masses. Those representing the poor were told to sit on the newspapers and eat their tortillas, beans and rice. The rich ten were randomly chosen shortly after nearly everyone had gotten food.
“I feel happy but sad for the people who couldn’t be here,” said Tamara Harutyunove, one of the ten “rich.” “I wish we could change it.”
According to the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations, the majority of hungry people at 98 percent, live in developing countries.
“I wasn’t aware the full extent of the problem,” said Bridgett Womack, a participant who was part of the poor class. “What was most surprising was how many are starving in the United States. You don’t think there are starving people [here], but there are.”
The lines to eat were long. A second table of beans and rice had to be made. The wait made the participants hungry and impatient, which helped them better understand the experience of those who suffer from hunger on a daily basis.
Lindsay Hadley, the guest speaker and executive event producer of the Global Poverty Project, spoke on the problem of poverty and hunger.
“Vulnerability is inspiring to me,” Hadley said. “Who are you most vulnerable with?”
Hadley focused her speech on becoming what she called a “global citizen.”
“If you guys want to become a global citizen, we’re going to do all kinds of cool things,” Hadley said. “You can visit our website, globalcitizen.org, or download the app for free. We’re going to have all kinds of […] prizes, more festivals, tickets to concerts, experiences with celebrities, trips – amazing things.”