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Demonstration microcosm for world problem

Each person’s place in life is randomly determined, and students had a chance to see that demonstrated Tuesday night when Volunteer USF, along with other organizations, sponsored the second annual Hunger Banquet.

“Some people take for granted what they have,” said Khari Douglas, a member of the global issues department of Volunteer USF. “We wanted to show how serious the problem of world hunger is and inspire them to make a change.”

When people walked into the ballroom of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, they were told to pick a name tag out of an envelope. The words on the tag identified each person with a high, middle or low income.

“It is important for our society to know that hunger is still a common problem in the world,” said Arveen Andalib, one of the students who helped organize the event.

Members of the high-income group, which was 10 percent of those in attendance, were served a three-course meal: iced tea, salad, yellow rice with mushrooms and beef and chocolate cake for dessert.

Adriene Birchbauer, a student named to the high-class group, admitted she felt guilty eating her meal while others were sitting on the floor hungry, waiting for their food to be served.

“When they brought out the chocolate cake, I thought they went too far,” Birchbauer said.

Those in the second group were fed a meal of white rice with beans and lemonade. And, for some, it seemed like a big change from high to middle class.

Guest speaker Lesa Weikel, from Metropolitan Ministries, said what Americans consider middle class is actually high on a global scale.

“It makes you realize there are problems in the world,” said Joanna Klatka, a person assigned to the second group. “I feel fortunate to have food, and I’m better off than those on the floor.”

The low-income class was the biggest group, which left 60 percent of the guests sitting on the floor. They had to wait in line for a plate of dry rice and a small glass of water.

“I was hoping to get a four-course meal, but instead I got what the majority of people did, which doesn’t surprise me,” said Manny Pierce.

A couple of seats were open in the high-class group, and they were soon sold to the highest bidders. The money was later donated to Oxfam America, a group that works toward finding a solution for hunger and poverty.

Jason Reekmans paid $11 for his catered meal and a chance to sit at a table. He later shared his food with some of the Third World country people sitting on the floor.

“If you have more than enough, I don’t see why it’s so hard for people to give back,” Reekmans said.

Those putting on the event encouraged everyone in attendance to do their part in ending hunger locally and nationally.

Weikel said many people don’t notice the hunger problem in the Tampa Bay area. However, 9,400 homeless families will be at Metropolitan Ministries for the holiday season.

She said people could help by donating food, money or by volunteering their time.

“The problem of hunger is growing rapidly, and students can make a change,” Douglas said. “The student population is very high in the area.”

Danny Siegel, author and lecturer, also suggested ways to help. He recounted stories of children as young as 11 and a story about an 80-year-old man who helped fight hunger.

Siegel said people can go to any food business and offer to take any leftover food to a shelter in the area.

“It’s a two-prong process,” Siegel said. “It takes the individuals who make a difference and others who can get to and change government structures.”

A low education level leads to low income, which in turn causes poverty and hunger. Instead of putting money toward education or healthcare services, the governments of Third World countries are forced to pay off the debts owed to other countries.

Oxfam encourages people to insist that the U.S. government forgive these debts so other countries are given an opportunity to solve their own problems.