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Hunger Banquet Gives a Taste of Reality
OKLAHOMA CITY —Oklahoma City University will host the annual Hunger Banquet dinner experience at 7 p.m. March 24, 2010 to benefit the World Neighbors organization. Sometimes it’s more important to nourish the mind than the body while sitting at the dinner table. Many who participate in the Hunger Banquet will leave with an empty stomach, but that’s part of the learning experience. “Nobody’s there for the food. They’re there for the experience,” said Marie Hooper, OCU history professor and faculty sponsor of the event. “Some will leave hungry, but that’s how we demonstrate the issues of world hunger and societal interaction.” The student-led event portrays a variety of conditions throughout the world including the plight of the hungry and the way nations treat each other, Hooper added. Large-scale issues like natural disasters, war, political instability and more play roles in the Hunger Banquet. The event is akin to dinner theater, when food is served while a script is played out. However, that’s where the similarity ends, as the participants themselves are the ones acting out the “script.” As ticket holders file through the doors they are assigned to a specific table through luck of the draw. Each table is designated as a particular region in several respects including the proportionate number of people as compared to the rest of the world, the type of cuisine served and even the amount of food available. For example, the food available for the “Africa” table might not feed everyone present, Hooper said. On the other hand, those seated in “North America” and “Europe” will have plenty to eat and some fancy utensils to eat it with. There is also an added element of chance — tables roll a die to determine their fates, like whether their village is wiped out by a tsunami or whether they get ideal conditions to grow crops. Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors society, sponsors the Hunger Banquet. Brandon Tullos, OCU student and event organizer, said he hopes participants will leave with a desire to improve the world. “Most Americans’ understanding of the struggles of poverty in other countries is limited to commercials asking for donations,” Tullos said. “They are unable to see the effects of extreme poverty. Because they cannot experience these situations people usually do not correlate the differences between America and third-world countries. If there is one thing I would like to accomplish from Hunger Banquet, it is that guests will leave with an adequate understanding of the disparity between Western civilization and the rest of the world.” The planning process takes a couple of months. It includes figuring out the menus for each country, how to set the tables, where to set the tables and inviting cultural entertainment. Other items are purposely left unplanned, Hooper noted. For instance, those who sit at a table for one of the Asian countries might have to go out and find their food in another part of the building. And those in poorer countries could decide to “raid” or risk “illegal immigration” to a richer country to feed themselves. World Neighbors, an organization seeking to end world hunger through educational means, is the beneficiary of money raised from Hunger Banquet. The locally headquartered organization was established in 1951 by John L. Peters, who once taught at OCU. Although the event serves as a fundraiser, Hooper said the money is secondary. “We’re more concerned about people experiencing what it’s like outside our borders. Obviously we can’t recreate what it’s like to die of starvation in a central African area, but at least we can demonstrate what’s going on in other parts of the world in a way that they’ll remember. This event is held to raise awareness.” Tickets are $3 in advance and $5 at the door. For more information or to get tickets send an e-mail to Tullos at btullos.stu@my.okcu.edu or visit the Hunger Banquet Facebook page.