UMD’s Oxfam America chapter hosts second annual hunger banquet

By Ashley Peccerelli

The University of Maryland chapter of Oxfam America hosted its second annual hunger banquet with an interactive simulation of the global food system and refugee crisis Nov. 16 at the Rosenbloom Hillel Center.

Oxfam America is a global movement of people working to end the injustice of poverty. The 70-year-old organization is active in over 90 countries and works on the scene helping people gain the hope, skills and direction to create a new future. They address social injustice through their advocacy, public education, and emergency assistance programs.

“We are teaching students about the little things that they can do on campus that can help the overall global food system campaign,” junior public health science major and co-president of Oxfam Malika Bai said.

Oxfam America established itself at the university during the fall 2016 semester for students interested in humanitarian issues with the purpose of getting experience in campaigning and activism work, according to Autumn Thompson, a senior American studies major and president of Oxfam UMD.

More than 40 students attended the event at the Rosenbloom Hillel center, which American Red Cross and Public Health without Borders co-sponsored.  

The event organizers simulated the ratios of each socioeconomic class, assigning students to a high, middle and low-income tier based on the latest statistics around the world. The majority of the world’s population lives in the lower-income tier.

Each income level experienced a different simulation. The high-income tier represents 20 percent of the most fortunate people — people who earn the highest perpetual income, eat nutritious meals, live in a comfortable secure home and have access to virtually everything. These participants are served a lavish meal. The middle-income tier represents 30 percent of the world’s population. They are served a simple meal. The lower-income tier represents 50 percent of the world’s population who live under $5.50 a day — every day is a struggle to meet basic needs. They help themselves to a small meal and some water.

In addition to the provided meal, guest speakers Rebecca Gilbert, campaign coordinator for Oxfam America, and Kenneth Leonard, Associate Professor at the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the university, examined new strategies to help people who live in hunger.

After the interactive experience students came together to share their thoughts and opinions.

“I actually really liked the event,” senior psychology and neuroscience major Philip Demars said. “I thought what professor Leonard said about how the lowest economic group understands and practices giving kindness and charity more than people in higher income class was very eye-opening.”

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