You Matter 2 banquet offers a global look at hunger

How can you be invited to a dinner party and go home hungry? 
 
  Tamika Britten of Glenwood
  sits on the floor eating rice
  as a low income diner
  at the Oxfam Hunger
  Banquet.
(Photos by 
  Marilyn Thomas/H-F 
  Chronicle)
 
It happened on Friday, March 2, because hostess Destiny Watson and her friends with You Matter 2 didn’t extend a typical dinner invitation. They wanted the three dozen guests at their Oxfam Hunger Banquet, to recognize that all peoples in the world don’t enjoy the same level of food security that residents in the Homewood-Flossmoor area typically do.
 
Guests at the Flossmoor Community Church Community House drew a card that put them into a category of high, middle or low income. Each card also had a text message number so guests could learn the story of the person they were representing at the banquet.
 
  Tanisha Kwaaning of Chicago
  serves water from a bucket
  to fellow low income diners.

 
The high category, representing 20 percent of the world’s population, sat at a table set with a tablecloth, napkins and silverware. The middle category, representing nearly 30 percent, sat at a table with silverware. The low income group, representing just over 50 percent, sat on the floor.
 
Watson shared Oxfam information that surprised some guests. For example, the planet has enough food to feed everyone, but it is the power over others that affects how food is grown and distributed, she said. Lack of water and a changing climate add to the problem of food sustainability.
 
  Zahriaa Evans of Homewood,
  a senior at Homewood-
  Flossmoor High senior,
  enjoys a drink as a high
  income diner at the Oxfam
  Hunger Banquet.

 
In many countries, farmers are affected by war. Others can’t get access to credit to bring their crops to market, or they are fighting for the right to control land they believe they own but don’t have papers to prove so.
 
Watson asked for volunteers from the middle group. Two teens stood. Then Watson gave the scenario in which they had lost their income. One lost control of her plot of land and the animals the other owned had died. They were asked to sit in the low income group.
 
Three volunteers from the low income group represented clothing workers in the Dominican Republic. They managed to move to the middle income group because their factory was taken over by new investors who believed in paying a living wage that enabled them to feed their families and send their kids to school.
 
  Skye Courts, 4, of Homewood
  wasn't too enthusiastic about
  her bowl of rice.

 
After several additional stories, the banquet began. The high income group would get a nutritious meal. The women in the middle group would have to wait for their meal until the men had served themselves from the buffet table. The low income group had a dinner of rice with water to drink. 
 
After dinner, Watson asked her guests for their feedback. They agreed that the simulation was a helpful demonstration of what it is like to live in poverty, and several pointed out that we shouldn’t lose site of the needs around us.
 
  Shawn Moton of Flossmoor,
  a senior at Homewood-
  Flossmoor High, was a
  high income earner who
  got a full meal at the
  Oxfam Hunger Banquet.

 
Tanisha Kwaaning of Chicago is a Chicago Public Schools teacher. She sees her students rush to the lunch line because for many of them it will be the only hot meal for the day.
 
Several told of travels outside the U.S. that gave them a deeper respect for what they have and how difficult life is for so many.
 
Keith Davis, principal of Heather Hill School, remembers growing up in poverty, one of six siblings. He remembered a diet of powdered milk, canned meat and peanut butter.
 
“These stories make me want to go home and hug my mom for giving me what I needed. The fact that I was able to eat, I had some nutrition when some in the world get none,” he said. “It makes you reflect on your experiences and go out and do more for those in need.”
 
Watson, a sophomore at the University of Dayton, founded You Matter 2 three years ago as a student at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. The group of junior high and high school students conducts food drives to fight hunger in the H-F community.

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