On Monday night, April 10, University of Illinois students participated in Unify’s first Annual Hunger Banquet. This was in partnership with Oxfam International, an international confederation of charitable organizations focused on reducing global poverty.
The Hunger Banquet is an educational exercise set to provide its participants with awareness of global food insecurity. Participants at the beginning of the event are placed into lower, middle, or upper class sections. Their class determines what they will eat, as well as their entire dining experience.
Lower-class participants received a meal with low nutrition content (e.g. rice) and sat on the floor. On the other side, upper-class participants received a meal with higher nutrition content (e.g. pasta, bread, and salad) and were waited on by Dining Service staff.
For example, Emily Bloemer, a junior in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, was placed in the lower class as a 40-year-old rice farmer from Haiti. “It was definitely eye-opening only being able to eat rice and water, and having to get into line after the guys in the lower class. This represented the sacrifices that women in families make in regards of decreasing their food portions to give to their children,” said Bloemer.
Towards the end, Unify provided a reflection activity for the experience as well as a presentation on its upcoming project. In the Fall, the organization hopes to establish a Campus Kitchens Chapter at Illinois. This program will support students in diverting potential food waste from local food retailers and direct it to those facing food insecurity.
Overall, the event initiated the participants interest in applying their skills and passions to help promote food security on local and global levels.
Rachel Janovsky, a junior in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, offered advice on how students can engage in this grand challenge in addition to participating with Unify. “Students can also get involved with research that focuses on sustainable intensification of food production to increase access to food in food insecure regions,” said Janovsky.
The Unify Team immensely thanks the College of ACES’ support for the organization’s academic, philanthropic, and professional pursuits.
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Article submitted by Thomas Poole, Unify President 2017 and University of Illinois Crop Sciences Class of 2018