At St. Matthew School in Hillsboro, Oregon, lucky students who picked a purple card were served a full meal on a white tablecloth; those who picked a brown card got a small bowl of rice and no table. The object was to teach seventh and eighth graders that food isn’t distributed equally worldwide.
The Hunger Banquet was arranged by school librarian Karen Mejdrich, who taught about human rights this year. She wanted the students to feel — on a gut level — the impact of going without. She hoped it would let her students witness poverty from a position of opulence and feel a need to change the imbalance.
Mejdrich got her script and statistics for the exercise from Oxfam, a nonprofit agency that battles poverty and injustice around the world.
The nine people at the banquet table represented the 15 percent of the world’s population with a per capita yearly income of $9,266 or more. Mejdrich told them: “You consume 70 percent of all the grain grown in the world, most of it in the form of grain-fed meat.”
Oxfam’s solution is to get the lucky rich to share with the unlucky poor. The students did that spontaneously. I wish they’d talked about producing more food: the green revolution, the potential of genetic engineering in the Third World, which economic and political systems lead to abundance, that sort of thing.
In the end, however, there was an increase in the food supply: As a reward for sharing, all the students got lasagna.