Skip to main content

AWOL Hunger Banquet recognizes issues of hunger, poverty during World Food Day event

VERMILLION, S.D. -- On Tuesday, Oct. 15, USD’s AWOL hosted its annual Hunger Banquet in recognition of World Food Day.

World Food Day is celebrated each year around the world to magnify the issue of hunger, poverty and food security. The Hunger Banquet is an interactive simulation where participants are randomly placed in an income level determined by world population ratios and socioeconomic data, and then served a meal that is typical of that population. High-income participants were served a two-course meal on fine china; the middle-income group had rice and beans, and water from a pitcher; and the largest group of participants in the low-income group ate rice and drank water from a bucket.

Throughout the simulation, participants were guided through a discussion that explores the complexity of hunger and food security and challenged students to think critically about the root causes of these important issues. The simulation concluded with a debate about how people can become change agents and work within their communities to address hunger and poverty.

Steve Miller, an adjunct faculty member at USD and pastor of the United Church of Christ in Vermillion, facilitated the event. This was Miller’s second time emceeing the AWOL Hunger Banquet and he continues to support this event because of the students.

“I love giving (students) an opportunity to think about hard issues,” Miller said. “They always do a great job in giving me hope in return. Everyone here was thinking about these important things that a lot of people don’t want to think about and that makes me hopeful. So I do it for them.”

Senior John Matthew, who was placed in the low-Income group, said, “I think that it’s good that the campus cares enough to get us to care. It’s good that we’re aware and that they’re aware and only good things can come from it.”

Added sophomore Joshua Johnson, who was placed in the middle-income group, “the hunger banquet helped me realize who truly makes up each type of social class and made me aware of how prevalent poverty and hunger is in my own community.”


Housed in the Center for Academic Engagement and Global Engagement, AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning) offers students the opportunity to combine community service with education during academic breaks. Prior to departure, students participate in six weeks of educational training. By utilizing experiences and education, AWOL enables students to become active citizens whose community becomes a priority in their everyday life and provides them with avenues for continued community involvement and learning.


USD’s Center for Academic & Global Engagement (CAGE) gives students the chance to gain real-world experience and knowledge and connect with their community and the larger world. CAGE offers academically based opportunities that create skills employers and graduate schools seek. Among them: off-campus service-learning programs, studying abroad, student exchange, undergraduate research and nationally competitive awards and fellowships. CAGE also provides support to international students with cultural and academic adjustments as well as immigration concerns.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Hanna DeLange
USD News