By Madison Otten
This article is part three in our four-part Hunger Block. Read parts one and two.
The Rocky Mountain Room was humming with activity on April 25, as students and parents arrived to attend the fifth annual Hunger Banquet. Those who attended heard students speaking about hunger, not only in the physical sense, but also in the intellectual and spiritual standpoint. Over the course of the spring semester, the students from Kristina Kahl, April Lewandowski and Kelli Cole’s classes learned how hunger and food insecurity affects college students on a day-to-day basis.
Cole, Kahl and Lewandowski combined efforts to teach their students the effects of hunger in college. The students from two English composition classes taught by Lewandowski and Cole spent several weeks learning about hunger and food insecurity in their communities. The Hunger Banquet is the culmination of the students’ hard work and research over the semester.
Joey Rodriguez, a student presenting during the event, described the importance of learning about hunger and why his team’s work was important.
“We did a hunger banquet at the beginning of class, and it changed my perspective, and I could see in a different light,” said Rodriguez. “I hope it can change others’ perspectives.”
In addition to the in-class hunger banquet and ongoing research, the students visited the Food Bank of the Rockies volunteering to provide local food banks with food to help those in need.
Another presenter, Killian Taylor, hoped that the audience walked away with a greater understanding of the subject.
“I feel it gives them more of an insight into hunger in the community college,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t aware college kids were struggling with hunger and food insecurity. It helps people see that there are resources out there for people who are struggling with food insecurity.”
To help portray this struggle and make it easier to empathize, the audience was separated into three separate groups: the upper-middle class, the working-middle class and the poor. The upper-middle class sat at tables, while the working middle was allowed chairs and no tables and the poor sat upon the ground. The upper class was represented by an empty table featuring white linens and flowers. No one sat at that table as there are few upper class members in Adams County.
Paige Hashbrouck, a visitor who joined the event commented on the presentation, sat on the floor as part of the poor group.
“I’m surprised to learn that it’s more common than I thought…that students go through hunger,” said Hashbrouck.
The food was also based upon assigned class; the upper middle had access to a Qdoba burrito bar, the working middle had access to spaghetti and meatballs and the poor only had access to vending machine food. After everyone experienced life in their assigned classes, they were allowed to enjoy whatever meal they wished wherever they wished. If an audience member was someone who experienced food insecurity outside of the event, Lewandowski wanted to make sure they did not go hungry.
After everyone was sorted into their designated class, Lewandowski’s students read aloud accounts of people who suffered from hunger and food insecurity, both real and fictional. Some of the stories were interactive and would have audience members move up or down social classes as directed. The room became quite sober during that point, the people speaking were genuinely moved by their experiences over the semester through learning about and trying to help those in need.
On the eastern wall of the Rocky Mountain Room, Cole’s students set up “Hunger Through My Lens,” the PhotoVoice Project. The black displays featured photos depicting the struggle of hunger, followed by a summary of what they learned over the course of that semester.
Cole said that her charges shared what they had learned about food insecurity and about the work of organizations trying to combat hunger in their communities, like food banks, donation programs or even food pantries.
Shelli Carriveau, a parent, attended the event with her daughter.
“I’m grateful that we are helping the students become more aware to help others,” said Carriveau. “They were excited to have an opportunity to go to the food bank, and it lifted my daughter’s spirits to know that she was helping someone else, and she shared that with me.”
The participants agreed that participating in the event helped open up their eyes to a new perspective. It helped them see the struggles of their peers and empathize with them. Many were proud of the work they achieved. The professors couldn’t be happier to see their charges grow and mature from their experiences this semester.