Jay Hemingway-Foday, a second-year master's student and co-chairwoman of the Social Justice Caucus in the School of Social Work, which organized the event, said the purpose of the event was to illustrate disparities in global resource allocation. "It's a way to dramatize unequal resource distribution around the world," she said.
Participants were assigned to either the highest, middle or lowest income tier, reflecting the proportions in each segment throughout the world. People of the highest income tier sat at a table and were served salad and either vegetable or traditional lasagna.
People in the middle tier ate black beans and white rice with a plastic spoon while sitting on chairs, and people in the lowest tier sat on the floor and ate plain white rice with their fingers.
Banquet participant Elizabeth Kirk, a first-year master's student in the School of Social Work, was placed in the middle income tier. She said working in Haiti last May helped her understand disparities in resource allocations.
"Living the way I do keeps other people from living this way," Kirk said. "It sucks up all the resources."
First-year master's student Jerry Covington, who was placed into the highest income tier, said, "It puts a face on things when you're eating well and you can see your comrades and contemporaries not eating."
Keynote speaker and Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said hunger banquets are "a graphic illustration of inequality in the world."
But Kinnaird said feelings stirred by events like the hunger banquet are fleeting. "I can go home to a refrigerator full of anything I want," she said.
Kinnaird said developed countries, including the United States, often contribute to global hunger by buying farm land, forcing farmers into debt and participating in wars without providing aid to people displaced by the conflicts.