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Hunger Banquet raises awareness for food insecurities

By: Morgan Chandler

As part of Beat Auburn Beat Hunger, the Center for Sustainable Service and Volunteerism (CSSV) hosted its annual Hunger Banquet in November to give students a chance to learn about food insecurities in the state of Alabama.

Chisolm Allenlundy, director of the CSSV's campus kitchen project, said the Hunger Banquet is all about food insecurity. "This is a unique event, because it allows students to learn about an important issue as well as get plugged into opportunities to help solve the problem," Allenlundy said. "Because it is often so difficult for students to break out of The University of Alabama bubble, the Hunger Banquet and events like it are essential to getting these students to engage more with the Tuscaloosa community in a meaningful way."

Allenlundy said the primary goal of the Hunger Banquet is to increase student awareness about the issue of food insecurity, which is a problem worldwide and nationally ? but also in Alabama. The Hunger Banquet also helped encourage student participation in volunteer projects and organizations aimed at reducing hunger in Alabama.

Allenlundy said at the dinner, some students are given more to eat than others, and those who are given less wonder why. When students come in, they are each given a wristband that is silver, red or gold. They then find a seat with a ribbon matching their color wristband. However, the students have no idea what these wristband or ribbon colors mean.

After everyone is seated, they are told what his or her wristband means. Those wearing silver represented the people in Alabama that face food insecurities everyday. Those wearing red represented the middle class in Alabama. The ones wearing gold represented the upper class of Alabama. Students were shocked to find out that what they got to eat that night depended on what class they were in. Members of the silver group had soup to eat, those in the red group had pizza and salad to eat and those in the gold group were served a five-course meal.

 

Keith Johnson, the CSSV's impacting poverty team leader, said the poverty level for a family of four in Alabama is an income of $23,000 a year, and that 19 percent of Alabamians live in poverty and face food insecurities. Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible, also spoke to students at the banquet and said she is not satisfied with saying there's nothing she can do about food insecurity in Alabama. "If you can impact just one person's life, that has a ripple effect," Scott said.

Courtney Thomas, director of the CSSV, said students should be concerned about food insecurities in Alabama because it is a silent epidemic and there are no outside symptoms to alert people that someone is struggling with this issue. This issue could be affecting someone without you even knowing, so it can be hard to raise awareness, she said. Thomas said students should also care because this problem affects members of the UA community and those that surround campus. Many of those affected are families who work with us, go to school with us and sit by us at church, she said.

"Food insecurity can strike anyone, and it does not discriminate," said Thomas. "Those of us who have the ability to help others need to take action now before this issue grows."

Freshman Alishia Shahnawaz said she came to the Hunger Banquet to get a different experience and get involved in something that she normally wouldn't. Another freshman, Morgan Swaim, said she heard about the Hunger Banquet through her Honors Connections class, and she thought it sounded like an interesting community service event to go to because it would be a neat experience to learn about how people live in Alabama.

After the Hunger Banquet, Thomas said many students said that they were now more aware of the problem of food insecurity and they wanted to make a difference in the community so that fewer people had to face it. Thomas said one student even told her that as members of the Capstone, students have an obligation to try and find more ways to get involved. Thomas said this belief ties in with the idea that CSSV students should not be focused on "drive-by" service opportunities, but sustainable opportunities that leave an impact on the community and the student population.

"We look forward to helping students channel this desire to serve, and possibly create more ways for them to serve," Thomas said.

This story is a part of Student Affairs Highlights, which spotlights students, staff, services and programs that are excelling within the Division of Student Affairs. View more stories at Student Affairs Highlights. Do you have a suggestion for a Student Affairs Highlights story? Email studentaffairs@ua.edu with your idea.