Several students and Ann Arbor residents went home hungry after
attending a banquet at the William Monroe Trotter House last
Unlike other banquets, the Hunger Banquet, which kicked off
Hunger and Homelessness Week, demonstrated the world’s
problem with hunger through income distribution by giving diners
different seating arrangements and food portions.
As participants walked in, they were asked to pick colored slips
of paper out of a box. The slips determined where each person would
sit and how much food they would receive.
“Hunger has many different causes, one of which is not
lack of food,” said Nayana Dhavan, one of the co-coordinators
of the banquet.
Dhavan, an RC sophomore, added that some possible causes of
hunger include discrimination, drug and psychological problems and
population distribution problems.
About 10 participants sat at a table covered with a white
tablecloth and represented the part of the population with a high
income, or about 15 percent of the world.
Mike Forster, vice chair of Students for Public Interest
Research Group in Michigan, said people with high incomes are able
to provide for their own and their family’s necessities and
usually consume more than they need.
Engineering freshman Josh Roe said he knew about the global
hunger epidemic before coming to the banquet but didn’t
realize the extent of it.
“I didn’t know the populations were distributed like
that,” he said. Roe and others who sat at the high-income
table were given full plates of food.
The students sitting in chairs arranged in a circle denoted
middle class people who make up 30 percent of the world’s
Forster said these families can pay for basic needs like food
and shelter and can also pay for electricity and a basic education,
especially for boys.
Coordinators served members of the middle-income group plates
half-full with food.
The majority of the participants had to sit on the floor and had
small portions of food.
According to Forster, low-income families make up 55 percent of
the world. Most of the people in this group work for landowners, or
if they are able, own some land and grow crops on it to feed their
Many are homeless and have to walk many miles to find drinkable
water. Forster added that the mortality rate in this group is also
After Forster explained the seating arrangements, the simulation
continued as some participants were given the chance to change
In one role-playing situation, six people moved up from the
low-income group to the middle-income group because a U.S.
industrial plant switched operations to Mexico, and more people
could find jobs there.
But the participants’ economic status didn’t always
Six people from the middle-income group tried to unionize for
their jobs were laid off, forcing them to move to the low-income
Mahima Mahadevan, a Habitat for Humanity member who was part of
the middle-income group, said the event was effective because it
was a visual experience.
“You read about hunger a lot, but when you take part in an
event like this, it gets us involved,” said Mahadevan, an LSA
Hunger and Homelessness Week, which is sponsored by the Hunger
and Homelessness Coalition, will continue tomorrow with a Day of
“Listen,” a documentary about homelessness in Ann
Arbor, will be shown at 8 p.m. at the Pond C room in the Michigan
Union. On Sunday, a Day of Action will give students the
opportunity to volunteer at local homeless shelters.