Did you know that 6 million children across the globe die each year due to malnutrition? Or that the wealthy 10% of the world’s population account for 59% of global food consumption? These were some of the shocking statistics I learned from attending an event called “The Hunger Banquet” in Brampton, Ontario on February 25th 2017.
“The Hunger Banquet” is a volunteer-led effort, launched by Oxfam almost 40 years ago, with the aim of shedding light on issues of global hunger and poverty. This local youth-run event was organized and hosted by the Deeprootid movement, which strives to reignite virtues such as respect, compassion, and forgiveness in an effort to unite individuals to create better communities. The purpose of this event was to educate attendees about the reality of unequal global food distribution and highlight the virtues of gratitude and generosity.
The event was structured in a creative and engaging manner. Upon arriving at the function, attendees were asked to randomly draw a ticket which assigned them to the high-, middle-, or low-income tier and dictated what type of meal they would be served. The three income levels drew parallels with the underdeveloped, developing, and developed worlds. My chosen ticket placed me in the high-income level.
The evening began with the host presenting some interesting, eye-opening statistics, for example, the highest income group makes up 20% of the world’s population, the middle income group makes up about 30%, and the low income group accounts for roughly 50% of the world population. We also learned more about each income level, such as that the high income group earns $14,000+ per year while the low income tier makes less than $1,000 per year. I was shocked to realize the scope of the discrepancy between populations of people!
After the factual introduction, the host shared the varying menus and dining arrangements for each income group. The high income group was abundantly served a three course meal featuring mixed greens with strawberries in a balsamic vinaigrette, chicken Alfredo, dinner rolls with butter, cinnamon rolls for dessert, and a bottle of carbonated water. They sat at their own tables, eating in ceramic plates with silver cutlery.
The middle income group ate a buffet style meal consisting of rice, lentils, and a juice box using plastic cutlery, on tables that were joined together. Only some individuals within this group were allowed to take seconds to satisfy their appetite. The low income group was seated on the floor and ate a buffet style meal, using plastic cutlery, consisting of only two items: a small bowl of rice and a glass of water.
As the dinner began, attendees saw that each group was served and accommodated very differently. Being part of the high income group, myself and others were served each course of the meal. The food was amazing, but not being able to share it with others was difficult, especially because the meal was extremely large for the average person and many people had difficulty finishing it. After the dinner, the event organizers provided pieces of paper and pens for attendees to share what they are most grateful for, and food was a popular answer!
This experience was new to almost everyone and made a significant impact in the way people look at food and its distribution across the world. It made me realize that being where we are, in a country of such abundance, we should be very grateful for the things we have, as many people around the world are not as privileged to have the same.
This event also encouraged us to feel for others and consider their situations. During the dinner, many felt the urge to share their food with others from lower income groups, showing kindness and generosity to those around them. Events such as The Hunger Banquet are surely thought-provoking and uplifting for people of all ages. We often get so consumed in our day-to-day lives that we forget to recognize the struggles of others who are less privileged than ourselves and to appreciate our blessings.
Deeprootid is planning to organize many more Hunger Banquets all over the Greater Toronto Area, for different communities and especially schools! Visit their website (www.deeprootid.com) and their YouTube channel to learn more!