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.”

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