April 28, 2004

Annual Ithaca Banquet Raises Hunger Awareness

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About 135 people came to the annual Ithaca Hunger Banquet Monday night at 6 p.m. at the Terrace Restaurant to promote hunger awareness. The event was sponsored by the Cornell Public Service Center, HADM490: Housing and Feeding the Homeless and the Cornell Coalition for the Homeless. Over $900 was raised from tickets and donations and will be donated to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

Each person received an envelope and was randomly assigned an identity and situation, ranging from drug rehabilitation to college student, to early retirement from an internet start-up company. The envelope and place setting determined the attendee’s class and meal that they would be served.

Low-income people ate rice and beans off of paper plates with plastic utensils. People assigned middle-income identities consumed a small portion of rice, chicken and collard greens.

High-income participants enjoyed steak, rice, broccoli and rolls.

“The hunger banquet is a metaphor for how food and other resources are distributed in our country and state,” said Jessica Garay ’04, a main event coordinator with Liza Steinfeld ’05. HADM490 requires 40 to 60 hours of community service. Students can help out with the hunger banquet to fulfill part of this requirement.

“The banquet brings awareness of poverty and hunger to students,” said Prof. Therese O’Connor, hotel administration. She also said that the money raised from the banquet stays in the community.

Encouraging Discourse

There was a discussion leader at each table who passed around a list of questions for people to ask and discuss, including why people came to the banquet, first exposure to hunger, involvement in service activities and ideas for ending the cycle of hunger and poverty.

Some of the people who received steak or chicken offered to share their meal with participants that had rice and beans.

“It was really nice to have the discussions at the tables. Change is made through conversations and dialogue, not through mass media,” said Brit Holmberg ’01, Operation Frontline coordinator for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

He said that the poverty rate in Tompkins Country is 15 percent. The Operation Frontline program provides free six-week courses where local volunteer chefs teach low-income individuals how to cook.

Discussion Over Dessert

Everyone received the same dessert of chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-dipped strawberries while the key-note speaker, Bich Ha Pham, executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, began to discuss the program.

According to Pham, “over 900,000 New Yorkers a week turn to emergency food programs.” She stressed that average Americans support food programs, but that hunger is not as much of a priority in politics.

She also said that President George W. Bush wants to cut funding for community nutrition programs.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to talk about the issues of hunger, especially hunger locally,” said Matt Gewolb ’04.

Donations and Volunteers

All of the food was donated by the Statler Hotel and the servers were students in the hotel school.

“It’s a good way for students to get thinking about the community they live in,” said Joyce Munchan ’96, student programs advisor of the Public Service Center.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Staff Writer