The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” According to Feeding America, in 2014, 48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children. It’s hard to believe that in one of the wealthiest and most prosperous nations on the planet, millions of Americans go to bed hungry every night. One must begin to look at the local community to see the real effects of hunger insecurity.
Statistically speaking, many of your fellow students suffer from food insecurity. The person sitting next to you right now may not be able to eat every day, and what’s worse, is you may have no idea. In order to combat this large but solvable problem, Front Range Community College is hosting a Hunger Banquet that is designed to educate students on food insecurity in an unorthodox way. I sat down with Hunger Banquet coordinator Dan Balski to learn more about this upcoming event.
“I would say that food insecurity is a bigger issue for community college students because there is such a high financial need with our student population. Most of our students are part-time because they’re balancing family and/or sometimes multiple jobs, in order to make a better life for themselves. Being able to survive in that lifestyle is extremely difficult,” said Dan Balski, Westminster Campus Coordinator of Clubs and Leadership.
He continued, “The Hunger Banquet is a program that provides more of an experiential way to engage with the concept of hunger. We arm students with knowledge as they come in to the Hunger Banquet. The focus this year will be how hunger affects our local community. The students will come into the banquet and they will have a place to sit based on socio-economic statistics of our area. There will be a high class, a middle class and a working poor area. Each area will be given food based on their income level and we use that dramatization to talk about how hunger affects people.”
There is no substitute for seeing the detrimental effects of food insecurity on the working class. One must walk in the shoes of the food insecure to understand it, and that’s what the Hunger Banquet seeks to achieve. Imagine one of your fellow classmates sitting silently, worrying about where his next meal will come from. If you knew your study buddy wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast tomorrow, you’d chip in to help them, even if it meant you had to give up your treasured caramel macchiato. The sad truth is simply that people are not sufficiently informed about these issues.
“I think it’s helpful for students to be informed about what their fellow students are going through. The Hunger Banquet is not only a way to get informed, but also a way for students to do something about these issues, to make things better,” said Balski.
Our collective goal should be to, as Balski suggested, “make things better” for everyone on planet earth. We can start with the simplicities of providing every individual with enough food to eat and clean water to drink.
As Americans, it is our duty to find solutions to the problems that not only plague the world at large, but also the Front Range Community. Come to the Hunger Banquet, educate yourself and volunteer at a food bank or a soup kitchen; the world and your fellow humans will thank you.
Written by Christopher Kemp
Photo from Front Range Community College