Oct 192011
Authors: Elisabeth Willner

Most nights in the Parmelee Dining Hall students can expect to receive a balanced meal. Tonight, many won’t.

Instead, more than 100 students will arrive at the dining hall at 6 p.m. ready to face what one in seven households in Larimer County confront every day: not having enough to eat.

The students, along with other CSU community members and a few student ambassadors from Poudre High School, will participate in CSU’s 7th annual Oxfam hunger banquet, an interactive dinner that aims to teach about hunger.

Each participant is given a card based on global economic statistics, with each attendee assuming a role for the course of the dinner. Most, representing the lower economic classes, will sit on the floor and eat bowls of rice with their hands. A choice few will sit at tables, eat with utensils and receive an entree, salad and dessert.

“It’s a great opportunity for experiential learning,” said Karen Gardenier, a representative for the Office of International Programs. “Students can think about hunger on the individual level.”

The Office of International Programs, the Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement (SLiCE) office, and Housing and Dining Services work together to plan the banquet.

Oxfam, the international development relief agency, which works to find solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice, provides most of the program content, including the role cards.

The CSU planning committee makes the event specific to Fort Collins by collaborating with the Larimer County Food Bank and holding the banquet around the same time as Cans Around the Oval, SLiCE’s annual food drive.

Brett Rundle, the representative for SLiCE on the banquet planning committee, said the banquet and Cans work together to produce awareness.

“Cans addresses an immediate need,” Rundle said. “The hunger banquet creates an awareness that will spur students into action in addressing food inequity.”

One past participant, junior apparel and merchandising major Calli Roche, called the banquet a powerful event.

“People our age don’t think a lot about hunger,” said the 21-year-old. “Especially people who have meal plans. [The banquet] gets them moving, gets them active, gets them to think.”

As of Monday, the deadline for advance ticket sales, 113 people had purchased tickets and 50 tickets remained for walk-ins.

Proceeds from the tickets, which cost $6 per student, benefit Oxfam. Last year the banquet raised $700, according to Shirl Portillos of Housing and Dining services. This year over $600 has been raised so far.

Roche saw the event as beneficial for inspiring students to act. She said students who participate often expand their activism to other campus activities related to hunger, such as Alternative Break service trips through the SLiCE office.

For Roche, participating in the banquet encouraged a change in eating habits. She now tries to eat more nutritionally because she recognizes that not everyone has access to the food she does.

Her first year at the event forced her to confront her sense of entitlement, she said.

“I was a little bit upset, because I was hungry,” Roche said, remembering what it was like to eat rice while others had a wholesome meal. “But it was enlightening because I think that feeling was my entitlement.”

Collegian writer Elisabeth Willner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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