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Students raise awareness about hunger

While some feasted on a three-course meal, others were left wanting more after eating meager rations of rice.

Communication professor Wendy Geiger’s social influence class hosted the annual Oxfam Hunger Banquet Tuesday, April 2, in conjunction with Politics and Social Justice Week, organized by Students for Political Action.

Geiger said Oxfam is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about world hunger and helps people learn how to provide for themselves.

The banquet is an opportunity for students and community members to experience a proportional representation of food distribution around the world.

“This is a chance for people to have an experiential kind of dinner where they get to see what it’s like to have a microcosm of what the world actually eats,” Geiger said.

At the event, 70 participants drew cards, each labeled with a name, the country in which the person is from and their income, which indicates their class.

Participants who drew someone from first class were seated at tables and were served a three-course meal.

Others drew people from the middle class. They sat at separate tables without servers and were treated to a buffet of rice, beans and water.

Those who drew people from the lower class were seated on the floor where they were served a small ration of rice and water. Geiger’s class was split into five groups—hosting, banquet education, fundraising and two publicity groups—and worked together to coordinate the event.

Joel Bettis, a member of the hosting group, said the class wanted to find a way to illustrate the unequal distribution of food in the world through a real-life example.

“We wanted to show people that people are eating way less and there’s enough food to go around, but we’re cut off by certain factors like poverty, literacy, all of the different things that influence if you have the resources to eat like some people can,” Bettis said.

The fundraising group worked with Sodexo to collect dining hall swipes.

“We basically went to the dining halls and sat outside them and collected swipes from each student that we could and each swipe gave $2.50 to the Johnson County Food Center,” Hayden Presley said.

The team also collected donations and items to be raffled off from businesses in the Warrensburg community.

Geiger said she hopes this event opens the eyes of her students and others in attendance about the distribution of food. She said she hopes they realize that it also happens here in the United States.

“I hope that the students who were active in this understand that they could do the Oxfam Hunger Banquet or something like it when they get out of school,” Geiger said.

Bettis said organizing this event taught him a lot about project management and how to work as a team.

“It definitely showed me how to put on an event like this—project management especially. We were split into different groups, but we were working on a bigger project that all had to have coordinating pieces,” Bettis said. “We had a social media team and we had to tell them every update we’re doing. Fundraising had to keep everyone updated with who was supporting the event while we were talking about it, so I would say team coordination and project management.”

Presley said he enjoyed putting on an event that had a cause beyond the class.

“Putting on this event meant a lot to me because it had a direct impact on our community since every donation is going to the Johnson County Food Center here in town and being able to work with them was special,” Presley said.

The food center, which is a nonprofit organization, serves over 1,000 people in and around Johnson County each month and runs on donations from local businesses and Harvesters, among others.

They also receive some commodities from the government.

A donation of $100 will be made to Oxfam America. The food center will receive 160 food items, a nearly $1,300 check from Sodexo and an additional $260 from cash donations.

“I’m just really proud of the students,” Geiger said. “They took the project seriously and worked really hard in doing this.”

For more information, check out @Oxfam_UCM on Instagram, Oxfam UCM on Facebook, the Johnson County Food Center and Oxfam at www.oxfamamerica.org.

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