Guests at Oxfam Mount Allison’s hunger banquet were in for an unconventional meal. Approximately thirty students ate according to randomly assigned socioeconomic classes, meant to reflect world inequality, at the Legion March 27.
Julia Duncan, an Oxfam member and one of the evening’s hosts, told guests at the outset that the event was not meant to “tokenize” the experience of poverty.
“It’s really about expanding people’s horizons,” Oxfam member Jeanette Carney said.
“There is a divide between those who want action and those who want awareness,” added member Zoe Luba. She noted that “if you go to a hunger banquet you take away a new understanding—it can encourage you to not only donate but […] to actually change something.”
During the banquet the hosts explained how the service reflects global inequality. High income, middle income, and low income groups are served at different times. High income participants were served first. Middle income and low income people had to serve themselves. In addition these groups were divided by gender, and women were forced to serve themselves last. The vast majority of guests were assigned to the low income group.
“It’s also something that is hard to advertise for [since] most people think, well I don’t want to go if I get a four in five chance of not getting any food at all,” said Carney.
The Mount Allison hunger banquet also featured talks from Mt. A sociology professor Deatra Walsh, Catalyst Mt.A president Nicole Forbes, and the Centre For International Studies student coordinators Natalie Brunet and Rebecca Lockert.
For Carney, hunger is an problem associated with many other issues. This is why Oxfam invited Catalyst’s Forbes to talk about how poverty is experienced in the LGBTQ community. “[I]f you are in the lowest class and you are a homosexual [or] transgender your life is very difficult,” Carney explained.
Deatra Walsh examined the issue of local poverty, focusing on the importance of milk in the average diet. She noted that people rarely donate milk to food banks, preferring to give cheaper perishables instead.
Luba said the group was inspired to have this banquet in Sackville after an Oxfam convention in Halifax. “[Other Oxfam campus groups] told us about their hunger banquets and told us strategies, it kinda inspired us to really actually push through with our own.”
The group received funding from Campbell-Verduyn fund and Centre For International Studies to host the event. The event was also organized in partnership with Edible Ethics and Catalyst Mount Allison.
After demonstrating how class differences determine accessibility to food, students were allowed seconds and the indulgence of a dessert buffet. “People bought five dollars worth of food so we had to provide enough food,” Penney said.
The group was happy with the banquet despite the small number of students in attendance. “I think the people who did come really enjoyed it. I had a lot of people […] asking me questions about what Oxfam does,” Carney said.