Awareness program highlights world hunger problem

By Gus Bode

Some groaned when their dinner was revealed – a measly piece of bread and a small bowl of rice and beans.

But the meal was more food than half the people in the world eat in a day, a shocking reminder that extreme hunger is rampant around the world.

On Saturday, the SIUC Rotaract Club, the Black Affairs Council and other student organizations sponsored a Hunger Awareness Program in observance of World Hunger Awareness Month in October.


Those who attended the event at the Old Main Restaurant were split into three groups. The first was the “rich” group, one “middle class” and the other “poor.” Each group was directed to a certain segment of the restaurant, and then served a meal based on their social class.

The poor were served bread, rice and beans from a cauldron. The middle class helped themselves to a buffet of pasta, salad and garlic bread. The rich were treated to fancy table settings of linen and crystal, and a staff served them an elegant three-course meal.

As participants ate, a film played in the background detailing the struggles of homeless children in Mongolia, collecting recyclables to pay for a meal.

In many ways, hunger is considered the most extreme form of poverty, which families choosing between shelter and clothing or food. According to the Bread for the World organization, 852 million people across the world are hungry. Those who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which leave people susceptible to diseases.

Chronic hunger is the worst in African and South Asian countries, where those who cannot get food do not have the luxury of state-supported social programs such as soup kitchens and food stamps.

But Margie Parker, director of the Good Samaritan Food Pantry in Carbondale, said hunger isn’t just a problem in developing countries. In the 15 years she has been director of the food pantry, Parker says the number of people the Carbondale food pantry serves has jumped from 4,039 a year in 1989 to 10,036 in 2004.

“Hunger is something that shouldn’t exist in a country as wealthy as ours,” Parker said. “But it is getting worse, which you can see in the number of food pantries alone. Before the 1980s, there were very few pantries; now, there are more than 150,000 across the country.”


Parker and event organizers urged those in attendance to organize food drives, volunteer at pantries and be mindful of wastefulness, which many in the “poor” class felt first-hand.

As the rich and the middle classes finished their meals, wait staff took away half-full plates of food to the groans and heckles of the poor.

“We are getting a little bit of food, and they are wasting theirs!” said Deenaz Patel, a graduate student studying social work from Chicago. “It definitely makes you think about the disproportionate distribution of food; the people who need it can’t have it, and the people who have it waste it.”

Jamila Saidou, a junior studying microbiology from Niger, said though the demonstration was lighthearted, with jokes and wisecracks being directed towards the rich, the fact of the matter is many do go hungry.

“My country has been in the news lately because of a famine,” Saidou said. “So for me, this is reality. Everything I get I am grateful for because some don’t get to eat at all.”

Reporter Monique Garcia can be reached at [email protected]