Steps away from Trinity Cafe, USF consistently opens its doors to international and student organizations that raise awareness about issues of hunger and promote social consciousness. Our team was invited to participate in USF’s Oxfam Hunger Banquet.
Last month Oxfam, in conjunction with USF’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, hosted an event called the Hunger Banquet. Oxfam is an international consortium of approximately twenty organizations that have partnered with local communities to minimize poverty in more than ninety countries.
Early last month, on a Thursday evening, our team was invited to represent Trinity Cafe at the Hunger Banquet. Each year, students and faculty are invited to learn an interesting lesson about hunger by experiencing it for themselves and sharing a conversation about injustice and inequality. Those who attend are randomly assigned one of three socioeconomic classes before entering the dining hall. Nearly half are relegated to the poorest class while approximately one-third are assigned middle/working class status and the remaining few are considered upper class. Those in the middle or working class are offered seats at long, community style tables and are allowed to help themselves to a meal of rice and beans. The poorest group was offered seating on cardboard squares laid out on the floor of the hall and are allowed to help themselves to a single bowl of rice and cup of water after the upper classes have eaten. Finally, upper class individuals are served an extravagant three course meal at dining tables with all of the fixings.
This simulation precedes a frank discussion on what attendees think about poverty issues and hunger. One woman seated at the upper class tables shared that once the dinner had begun she and everyone at her table were so engrossed in their food and conversation, that any thought of those sitting on the floor totally slipper her mind. Meanwhile, one young man in the middle class filled up his plate with extra rice and beans before portioning it out and distributing it to a handful of those in the lowest class. The group discussion that ensued was very interesting and was highlighted by one young lady’s personal story about being homeless and relatively independent throughout her teenage years, before attending USF where she is now a student working towards Bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security.
Oxfam’s mission statement follows a similar line of thinking to our own at Trinity Cafe, “Nearly one out of every three of us lives in poverty. But we see a future in which no one does. The way we see it, poverty is solvable—A problem rooted in injustice. Eliminate injustice and you can eliminate poverty. We’re not saying it will be quick or easy, but it can be done.” We greatly valued the opportunity to discuss our approach to addressing hunger with those who attended the USF event and we were glad to show people how they can make a difference in their own community. If you or your community organization would like to have our team speak at an upcoming event, please feel free to contact us or come and volunteer to get a firsthand experience of what we do.