Oxfam Banquet Opens Students’ Eyes to Inequality

Photo by Hope Patti

The Oxfam Hunger Banquet came back to Ramapo this Wednesday, as students tried their luck by selecting random cards that granted them a social status for the banquet. Each card also contained the name and story of a person in that class and in varying situations. Lower class students were seated on the floor amongst torn up newspapers, while middle class students found themselves at a plain table in a folding chair. Upper class students, however, found themselves seated at a classy table setting, with a pre-dinner salad waiting for them.

Oxfam itself is an organization that wants to end world hunger, as well as fight injustice and poverty. On Oxfam America’s website, it describes what it hopes to accomplish: “Oxfam’s approach is about tackling the conditions that cause poverty in the first place, rather than the distribution of material goods. We start by asking questions and challenging assumptions. What are the root causes of poverty? What can we do to change the power dynamics that keep people poor?”

The event was helmed in part by student Amira Rachouh, who led the participating students through the banquet’s situations, causing students to rise and fall throughout the three available stations. “A lot of people think that hunger is about there being too many people and not enough food to get everyone fed … the Earth has enough land to feed everybody; it’s just not shared. Hunger and homelessness is about power, where the inequalities lie and how the people are given access to food.”

Students placed in the low income area were only given small handfuls of rice in a napkin for their meal. Those in the middle class received rice and beans on a plate, while the upper class was given a multicourse meal and iced tea. This was to show the wealth gap and how people from each station have a resource split.

Student Bridgette Duggan attended the banquet, and was placed on the floor amongst the trash. “It was interesting, it was eye-opening. I didn’t know that many people lived in middle and lower class, I was very surprised,” Duggan said. “I was in the low income. I got all this information about this lady who is a mother of four, who lives in an earthquake-ridden area, and is like so different than me. It’s so surprising.”

 “It reminded me of previous events I’ve been to that had a similar message to teach those that actually came to the event, especially, because I was a part of the low class,” said freshman Princess Claveria. “If you’re leaving the event hungry, it’s a way to think about how some people are actually leaving school hungry, and not having a warm home to go back to.”

“It definitely is unfair,” continued Claveria. “The sad realization of life is that that’s just how it is. People try to change things, but there’s always going to be that X percent of people on the top, and like the 80 percent in the lower class. People like Oxfam try and help fix it, but it’s hard. There’s nothing more to say other than that it was unfair.”