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Students Serving Food for Thought

WRITTEN BY ERIC STROM AND COLTON MARTIN



As guests trickled into the Halton Hills Christian School gym, 12-year-old Jada waited at the door to inform them of their fate in the Hunger Banquet. She assigned some attendees to a finely decorated table, gearing them up for a multi-course dinner. Others entered to sit on folding chairs, eating potatoes. Most guests settled on the floor, crowded and eating rice. 


A student welcomes guests into the classroom, where they learned
 about the misconceptions behind poverty and hunger.


But why did a group of grade 5 and grade 6 students from Georgetown, Ontario divide their guests up into distinct social classes? Why did a few eat steaks while most others got a meager handful of rice?

Exploring themes of hunger can be tricky. But Angie Bonvanie and her class believed they could drive the message home by putting guests in a situation where their stomachs do the thinking. So, they did exactly that.

Angie brought her students together to execute a carefully planned educational experience to teach participants about poverty and food-related issues in our world. They engaged Food for the Hungry (FH) Canada for help, and settled on hosting a Hunger Banquet. 

Participants didn’t expect what they pulled off − definitely not your typical weekday dinner.

Family and friends started in the classroom. The students presented a slideshow highlighting needs in their own community of Georgetown, and shared some of the ways they hope to help. Students also shared some of what they’ve learned about global hunger. 


Students quizzed their parents and friends. The exercise
revealed what participants knew about world hunger issues.

“We hope this event will be some great food for thought!” punned one student as he kicked off the event. Students even quizzed participants. Does hunger affect all people (old, young, men, women) equally? False. “I was struck by how the women go without food to give the husband and kids food, before even touching it,” commented Jack.

Then came the dinner rules, including the seating arrangement that dictated who was ‘rich’, ‘middle class’, or ‘poor’. And no sharing food. 

The students ushered their families and friends to the gymnasium. It was fine-dining for the rich − complete with table cloths, fine cutlery, an elevated position in the room (literally, on the gym stage), and a multi-course steak dinner. The class set up basic folding chairs for the middle class, and a simple meal of potatoes. Those slotted into the poor group settled onto a spot on the cold floor. Those unfortunate guests had nothing to eat but rice and murky water. (The rules had to be broken for some of the older participants who physically struggled to sit on the floor and needed chairs. Sadly, those with physical limitations living in poverty cannot so easily side-step the rules.)


Students served the "rich" class a three-course meal
 at a finely decorated table.

It wasn’t long before feelings of guilt surfaced. “My mom [in the poor group] said it was hard to ration the rice equally, and all she got was a handful to eat.” explained Jack, one the hosting students, “Some people also complained about the ‘potato water’ and how gross it tasted, and some people didn’t even drink it.” 

Jada shared, “My mom was in the ‘rich’ group and her group didn’t even finish all of their food. She started to feel worse and worse about why she was in that group, even though she was randomly assigned there.” The ‘rich’ began donating their croutons to the ‘poor’. Those receiving croutons graciously accepted, but were quietly miffed by being deserving of only leftovers. 

Students agreed that emotions were stirred, sparking discussions around the room. Participants in the ‘poor’ group felt “like second-rate citizens”. Those in the ‘rich’ group felt guilty eating such nice food right in front of others eating only potatoes or rice. 


"Poor" guests sat on the floor of the gymnasium and
 ate handfuls of rice for dinner. 

“There’s enough grain in the world, for example, to make everyone in the world fat,” said Clara, another student host, “but there are still people who go malnourished and starved.” 

“Canada isn’t a perfect place where everybody has everything. The event opened my eyes to how hunger is in our own community and not just in other countries around the world,” explained Jada.

Participants learned that each year nearly 12 million children under five years old die from malnutrition or food-related illness. Poverty isn’t just about not having stuff; poverty is felt when we cannot access healthcare or education for our children, or fear that our voice goes unheard. Poverty is bigger than food.

In the end, more than just mouths and minds were opened. In total, students were able to raise over $600 towards the work FH Canada and two local organizations, the Ontario Christian Gleaners and the Georgetown Bread Basket. Six deserving children in need were sponsored through FH Canada at the event, as well - truly the icing on the cake.

Seeing what her students could do confirmed for Angie that young people can and will make a difference when given the opportunity. 

“What a spectacular evening that succeeded in raising awareness. Best yet, this event is creating ongoing conversations in homes about what our world looks like and how God is calling us to make a difference,” Angie commented.


The class hopes that the conversations about world hunger
and poverty will be ongoing. 

“I hoped to do more than just host the banquet,” summarized Clara. “I wanted to raise awareness and let people in our community know that poverty is not just about money − it’s also about lack of shelter, being sick, not being able to see a doctor, not having a job, and fear of the future.” 


If you’d like to host Hunger Banquet for your school, church, or business, the team at FH Canada is happy to help you pull off an important, educational experience. Please contact Robyn at info@fhcanada.org with any questions.




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Food for the Hungry: Students Serving Food for Thought
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Food for the Hungry
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