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Students Experience Hunger Firsthand at Banquet

Ever wondered what it would be like to go hungry in a Third World country?

Several UNC students got the opportunity to take on this role Monday night at the Hunger Banquet, a dinner sponsored by the Campus Y as part of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

As participants arrived, they were given a notecard detailing their personas for the evening.

The cards named a country and specific economic situation.

Four different groups represented the wealthy, middle, lower and extremely poor classes. Each group was then given appropriate portions of food.

The upper class was fed steak, chicken, rice, beans and vegetables, while the poor only got a small portion of rice and were forced to sit on the floor.

Hildy Fong, co-sponsor of the event, said the goal of the exercise was to highlight the differences between social classes.

"We hope people were able to visually see the disparity in numbers and wealth," she said.

"The rich are far less in numbers, but they take so much."

Sophomore Emily Pierce was fed only the smallest portions. She said it was a good way to experience, even if just for a moment, what it is like to be hungry.

"It was a poignant and startling way to get a firsthand understanding of hunger," she said.

Even students with the large portions said the event raised awareness about hunger.

Sophomore Britt Lake said despite her large dinner, she was still able to get a glimpse of hunger.

"Looking around the room, I was able to get a clear idea of the extreme differences between classes," Lake said.

Political science Professor Joel Schwartz then took the floor to address hunger and homelessness in America.

He said despite the fact that the country is experiencing the highest point of prosperity in history, hunger and homelessness are greater than ever before.

Schwartz said the true problem rests in the lack of affordable housing.

"People may be getting paid minimum wage, but they still aren't paid enough to find affordable housing in many cities," he said.

Schwartz said neither politics nor acts of charity will solve the problem.

"Charity is like putting a Band-Aid on a symptom - it helps but it won't cure it," he said. "The only real solution will be found in grass roots social movements."

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However, Schwartz said he is not optimistic about a solution in the near future.

"This country is divided into two communities - the rich and the poor. There is almost no interaction between the two groups," he said.

"I don't see any great changes occurring in the near future," Schwartz said. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try."

Campus Y Co-president Rudy Kleysteuber said he was pleased with the event because it made students receptive to the message of hunger.

"I thought both the dinner and the speech highlighted the hopelessness the hungry experience day to day," he said.

"Hunger really is a tragic situation."

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