Banquet shows the other side

Mitchelle De Leon, Reporter

The Student Government gave individuals the opportunity to learn more about poverty through an interactive experience called the Oxfam Hunger Banquet on March 8.

Upon entering, guests randomly drew tickets that assigned an alias for the night and an income level, representing the latest statistics of people living in poverty worldwide: 15 percent is in upper class, 35 percent is in middle class and 50 percent is in poverty.

Guests who took one of the upper class tickets sat in an area of the room with black linen tables and silverware, including a dinner with fillet mignon as the entrée.

Guests in the middle class sat on white tables with plastic utensils, and they were served a small portion of pasta and bread, reflecting limited access to nutritious food.

One of the guests in the middle class attended the event with a goal that resonated with many other guests.

“I hope I can educate myself to better myself,” said Stella Llamas, communications major, who took the identity of Romeo from Guatemala.

Tanya Morgan, biology major, was another individual placed in the middle income group. For her, the event was eye opening.

“It’s actually a very interesting subject because you don’t think about how bad the poverty is in the world, especially here in America,” she said. “People don’t realize how many kids don’t have the food to go home to. We don’t realize how many of our fellow students are in poverty.”

The poverty group consisted the most people. They sat on the floor, served with only rice and water, and they had to find a way to split it among themselves, reflecting one of the opening statements of the event.

“Hunger is about power. Its roots lie in inequality to access to resources,” said Tawntannisha Thompson, one of the event’s two hosts.

To further reflect reality, guests were moved from different income levels. Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian, who was one of the night’s speakers, was moved from the poverty group to the middle class group, reflecting a positive change in circumstances.

The event gave individuals the opportunity to discuss varying views on poverty. One of the topics discussed was how personal choices affect an individual’s income level.

Danielle Ante, nursing major, believed that the issue was complex.

“I do feel that people have a choice to make improvements in their lives, but there are also people who don’t have that opportunity,” she said. “There are opportunities around us, but people have to be willing to take risks.”

Because it was the first time that SGA hosted the event, SGA President Danitza Romo believed that they could improve on some aspects of the event for next year, but she said she was proud of how the event went overall.

“The organization could improve a little bit and the way the event was being MC’ed,” Romo said.

Beyond its efforts with The Renegade Pantry, SGA decided to assist lower income students through awareness by dedicating the month of March on poverty.

“Our hope is not just that students have conversations about poverty, we want faculty, staff, administrators, and community leaders to have this discussion as well, because it is something that not only impacts our community, but everyone in the world,” Romo said. “I think that it is important for everyone to understand that not everyone has something to eat every day.  Sometimes, students in our very own campus go hungry and it is important that we start educating ourselves and try find ways to better assist these students.”

Another event on the issue is the Poverty 101 workshop on March 15, led by Dr. Donna Beagle.