I read about the hunger banquet in the Argonaut yesterday morning, so I went and got a ticket for it and attended last night, from 6-8 (so I was a little late to Ephil). The point of it was to illustrate the differences in how different classes all over the world eat, as far as volume and quality. It was really, really awesome.
You're supposed to fast for 24 hours beforehand. I didn't find out about it until that morning, so I had only a 8 hour start, but oh well. As you go in, you randomly draw a card that gives you a name and tells you a little bit about your nationality, where you live now, what you do for a living, etc. I was a female bank clerk that had immigrated to the US from China. Each card also designates your class. I was high class--I actually wanted to be low class, just for the experience, but that's the way it went. We had a good variety of people...about 40 in all, mostly students, but one family and several faculty or admin people.
So the dinner itself went like this:
*Low class sat on the floor. They had a big bucket of dirty brown water to drink (it had a little coffee in it, really), and for dinner, they were given a big platter of plain white rice to share (there wasn't much of it, and it was for about 30 people).
*Middle class sat at one big table. They had a bucket of clean water to drink, some napkins, and were given plain white rice with some steamed vegetables for dinner (the quantity was also higher). There were about 15 of them.
*High class sat around two smaller round tables (but they didn't sell out of tickets, so we just occupied one table--6 of us, I think. We had plates, a cloth tablecloth, cloth napkins, a glass with iced water and lemon, extra glasses for ice tea (cream and sugar provided), mugs for coffee (we had servers around every 10 minutes or so), Caesar salad with dressing and croutons, bread, pasta primavera, and key lime pie for dessert.
Before we ate, they talked to us about the way were were seated, compared it to the way things were around the world, and spoke about hunger situations around the world (not a lack of food, but distribution and wages, really). Some of the low class people had blank cards. At some point, they were told that they had gotten jobs at a factory belonging to a rich overseas company, and were allowed to move to the middle class. Some of the people in the middle class had blank cards too. They were told that they had gone on strike and lost their jobs, and so they were moved to the low class (to show how borderline everything was).
So when we were told that we were allowed to start (on the salad course, for us), I got up and asked my group mates "So, do you guys want to change things?" Some of them looked excited, others looked confused. We talked for a quick minute, and we all got up and took our salads over to the low class people, and we ate bread at our table instead. We also shared our clean water.
We had one empty place at our high-class table, so we took a low-class person and "sponsored" him by inviting him to sit with us. When the pasta course came around, 2 or 3 people from the low class came over to look (they might have been thinking about rebelling). It felt weird to have them sitting on the floor while I shared my food, so I gave them my plate and sat on the floor with them, and we all shared it.
Before the dessert course, we had a few guest speakers. One was a cafeteria manager at Wallace who talked about food wasting. He said that about 5% of the meals people take winds up going back into the garbage (because people will take more than they want, rather than taking less and going back for seconds). With all the people Wallace feeds, that's about 500 meals a week. O_o (I noticed he didn't mention all the extra food that Wallace makes and nobody takes). We had a speaker from a local food bank and shelter talk to us, and then a coordinator from Meals on Wheels. It was cool.
When the pie came around, I took it over to low class and shared with them again. It was really cool. Other high-class people did similar things.
I don't know if it was something we were really "allowed" to do. Nobody made a move to stop us...I guess I never wanted to question that it wasn't possible. I don't have the power to feed a million hungry people in Botswana. I DO have the power to share my food with 3 or 4 hungry fellow students, so I decided to start there. I had more food than I really needed. I'm sorry if I ruined their metaphor, though. :) (NOTE: Is not the least bit sorry). We had a long discussion afterward and the speaker wanted to know who at my table had thought up the idea of sharing, and I got all the finger-pointing, so they asked me to talk about that for a while (self-conscious!). Some other people were asked to talk too...one person that shared with only one other low-class person, and a low class person that stole dinner from one of us. It was really interesting. They had a donation bin up front...you were asked to donate all the money you would have spent on food in that 24 hour fasting period. I didn't have any money to give, but it was cool to see how much money was raised.
I think I'm going to be quoted in the Gem (yearbook) and the Argonaut (school paper). O_O