Food insecurity gets real at Oxfam UMD Hunger Banquet

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Oxfam UMD members and Hunger Banquet participants get together for a picture. Colleen Crowley/Mitzpeh.

By Colleen Crowley
For Mitzpeh
@ColleenCrowle20

 

For many students at this university, Thanksgiving involved abundant feasts and showing thanks for their good fortune this year.

Just days after the holiday, Oxfam America at the University of Maryland showed their fellow students just how fortunate they truly are.

Oxfam UMD’s Third Annual Hunger Banquet, held at Maryland Hillel, grappled with issues surrounding food insecurity, distribution inequality and the global division of the classes.

“We have facts that show there’s enough food to feed the whole world, and yet we have the highest level of hunger that we’ve ever had,” said Oxfam UMD co-President Danie Stewart, a sophomore government and politics and Spanish major. She, along with her co-president and representatives from other student organizations, ran the Hunger Banquet simulation.

Upon arrival, attendees were separated into “high income,” “middle income” and “low income” groups that reflected global percentages. They were then seated at a table, in chairs and on the floor according to their respective income levels.

During the simulation, students were classified as “low Income” and ate a meal of rice on the floor. Colleen Crowley/Mitzpeh.

When food was served, “high income” individuals received balanced, nutritious meals and “middle income” participants had a simpler meal of rice and beans. “Low income” individuals ate plain rice with their bare hands.

80 percent of the world’s population, Stewart said, is categorized as “low income,” meaning they survive on about $2,000 per year or less. Additionally, “The threshold for ‘high income’ is $7,756 a year,” said Stewart.

“I was a little shocked by what they consider stability,” said Erin Namovicz, a freshman criminology and Spanish major. “It’s definitely not what I would consider in America ‘upper class.’”

Sophomore Maniza Habib, a neurology and physiology major, also expressed surprise at this figure. She said, “When you actually think about it, it just feels crazy low, living here with all the privilege I have.”

However, food insecurity does not discriminate and can even affect students on this campus. “We wanted to angle this year’s Hunger Banquet around global issues, but also issues right here at home,” said Stewart.

According to a report from The Diamondback earlier this year, nearly 20 percent of students at this university face food insecurity.

“We’re really trying to get people to understand that food insecurity is a reality for many people in the world,” said Stewart. “And we’re trying to connect our UMD community to organizations in the area that they can get involved with.”

Students discussed the impact of the simulation over their dinner of rice and water. Colleen Crowley/Mitzpeh.

In addition to the food insecurity simulation, Oxfam UMD partnered with student representatives from Student Government Association, Residence Hall Association, National Residence Hall Honors Society, Campus Pantry and Safe Center, who shared ways for individuals to get involved and fight food insecurity in the local community.

The Campus Pantry, located on the bottom floor of the University Health Center, aims to provide food insecure students, faculty and staff with nutritious emergency food supplies. Safe Center, which serves human trafficking survivors with a myriad of legal, medical, and economic services, provides food items to clients who may not be able to afford food. Both organizations have opportunities for students to get involved through volunteering, running a donation drive or simply donating food items.

“It was nice to hear the speakers from different organizations and learn about the volunteering opportunities on campus,” said Namovicz.  “I’ve always been interested in giving back to my community. This showed me that there are so many different ways to do that.”

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