St. Croix students get harsh introduction to unfair worldwide distribution of food
Published: October 17, 2013
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ST. CROIX - In observation of World Food Day on Wednesday, students from a number of schools attending a hunger banquet at the University of the Virgin Islands' Great Hall got a chance to experience how the distribution of wealth and food around the world can be unfair.
World Food Day focuses on efforts to bring attention to the plight of the hungry and undernourished in the territory, the region and around the world, and the banquet focused on educating the participants about the global dynamics of food distribution and how they lead to hunger in different areas of the world.
The students were randomly selected for the meal by the luck of the draw, symbolizing how in real life some people are born into prosperity while others are born into poverty.
Attendees were divided into three groups based on the color sticker they got upon arrival.
One group was made up of 50 percent of those in attendance, and they represented the poor. A second group - 35 percent of those attending - were designated the middle income group, and the last group - comprising 15 percent of the attendees - were symbolic of the rich.
The small group in the upper class were seated in a nice restaurant-style setting with an attentive wait staff, and they feasted on an Italian dinner complete with desert and cider.
The middle income group was served in a lunch counter-style with chicken and rice and beans, while the least fortunate of the groups was served small cups of rice with water and had to eat their meager meals sitting on the floor.
During the course of the exercise, organizers also tried to convey the reality that circumstances change people's lives every day and emergencies, such as sickness or disasters, can move people from one group to the next.
Whitney Warner, an eighth-grader at Elena Christian Junior High School, was a member of the upper class group who fell from grace and into the lower class when her identity was stolen and her company went bankrupt.
With some hesitation, she moved to the lower class, saying it was unfair.
Gilbert Hendricks III, a third-grader at St. Croix Christian Academy, was one of the fortunate members of the low-income group, winning the lottery and moving into the upper class.
Lois Sanders, assistant director of UVI's 4-H and Family and Consumer Science Program, said it must be made clear that the problem around the world is not that there is not enough food, but that the allocation is unbalanced and other factors, such as war and politics, manipulate and aggravate the situation from one place to the next.
"Poverty turns out to be much more complex than we think," she said. "Agriculture can also be affected by war and even poisoning of the food supply in those places with constant wars."
Sanders encouraged the students in attendance to be mindful of what they eat, saying it is important for them to make healthy choices in the foods that eat. She said they also must be cognizant of how much food they waste because they take their access to food for granted.
The hunger banquet closed with a moment of silence to allow people to reflect and think about their experiences.
The students took a pledge and contemplated what it means to be global citizens who are partially responsible for the needs of others around the world.
UVI holds its annual World Food Day celebration Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. on the St. Croix campus, celebrating melons, avocado and aquaculture.
The university currently is collecting nonperishable food items to donate to local food banks and soup kitchens. Anyone coming to the event is asked to bring a food item.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.