Fighting poverty

“Where will you sit?”
This question was the slogan for the first Hunger Banquet hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA) at the Schilling Center Friday, Feb. 28 in order to raise awareness for poverty.

When guests arrived at the banquet, they were each randomly given a ticket that placed them in one of three categories of income: high, middle or low.

Once they received their category, participants sat at the corresponding areas. Those with high incomes sat at decorated dining tables with ornate table cloths and silverware as they were served tea and water. Those assigned to middle class sat at plain benches, while those classified as low sat on the floor.

According to Dylan Eagle, vice president of the SGA, the idea behind the dinner was to serve the participants with a meal that would help them visualize what a person in their income bracket eats on a daily basis.

“The groups represented here are basically proportionate toward current poverty statistics in our world today,” Eagle said. “This event is a simple example of how resources are fought for and distributed today.”

The banquet, catered by Sodexo, featured a three-course meal including salad, grilled chicken and cheesecake, which was served to all the tables no matter the
income category.

However, Eagle said the reality of poverty that the participants faced for the short time was nothing compared to poverty in the world.

“The thing is, we get to go back to living the way we were once we leave this place,” Eagle said. “The person someone may represent in the bracket doesn’t.”

Speakers at the banquet included representatives from Sodexo and the Liberty Campus Garden who encouraged participants to help fight hunger. Eagle said the goal of the Hunger Banquet is not only to inform, but to promote action.

“(The banquet) is geared to show how we as Christians should be proactive and taking care of not only our environment, but as we will learn tonight, (taking care of) each other,” Eagle said.

According to Eagle, there are an estimated 2.5 billion people living in poverty in the world today. He said that even though the issue of poverty is a huge one, it can be solved.

“Some people may view the hunger problem in the world today as being caused by too many people and not enough food,” Eagle said. “In reality, that is not the case. The world that God created for us is capable of producing enough food so that every man, woman and child can have enough food to eat.”

Alicia Cripe, manager of the Liberty University Campus Garden, spoke to participants about the details involved in growing food. Like Eagle, Cripe said she believes there is enough food on the earth for every person.

“If you look at the cucumber that you ate in your salads tonight, you will see seeds,” Cripe said. “If you save those seeds, you can plant them again and grow other cucumbers. The world God has created is very fascinating.”

Tanveer Bhatia, director of public relations for SGA, said it is important for people to know what poverty in the world looks like in order to help.

“A lot of people don’t see it firsthand and aren’t really exposed to it,” Bhatia said. “People see the issue, but they don’t really understand how much of an issue it is.”

Bhatia said SGA hopes the event will encourage participants to do their part to stop world hunger.

“Hopefully, the students will be motivated by the food they are served and even by the food they aren’t served,” Bhatia said.

During the service, Eagle read from Matthew 25:35, which says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Eagle said this verse sums up the duty of a Christian concerning poverty.

“The same principle applies to us today,” Eagle said. “We are blessed beyond reason to be where we are in America and on this campus — to have food, and above all, to have salvation in Jesus Christ.

Tickets were $5, and the proceeds went toward the Liberty University Campus Garden and to missionaries in Bosnia, according to Eagle. Sodexo dining services matched the money made from the banquet.

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