One in 12 people worldwide is malnourished. However, sophomore Elizabeth Stoltz, president of Food for Thought, knows that statistic can change.
“This isn’t a problem that can’t be solved,” she said. “There is enough food for everyone to have a proper meal every day, and there are little steps we can take to reach that major goal.”
Ithaca College’s Food for Thought and Stop Wasting Ithaca’s Food Today, also known as SWIFT, are working together to increase awareness of the large number of malnourished people in the world by hosting the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet. The groups will be accepting non-perishable food items for the Tompkins County Food Distribution Network.
Oxfam America was founded in 1970 by a group of volunteers in response to the fight for independence in Bangladesh. The non-profit organization holds hunger banquets and other programs to educate Americans on global poverty and injustice.
Sophomore Colleen Wormsley, communications director of Food for Thought, said the goal of the banquet is to provide insight into the issue of childhood poverty and malnutrition, which she said America’s privileged collegiate community often overlooks.
“Participants will walk out with a better understanding of different issues around the world and how poverty and hunger isn’t just about money,” she said. “Hunger is really about power; it’s about inequalities.”
Upon arriving at the banquet, participants will randomly draw a ticket that will read either low, middle or upper class. Wormsley said the division of the 100 tickets they have available will represent the world’s population, with 60 percent low class, 35 percent middle class and 15 percent upper class.
Those placed into the lower class will sit on the floor and receive a meal of rice and water, the middle class will have a bowl of rice and beans and a drink while sitting on chairs and the upper class will have a full dinner, dessert and coffee, while being accompanied by a waitstaff.
“The 15 percent that are getting the high-class meal is what we would normally eat for dinner, and only 15 percent of the world eats like we do,” Wormsley said. “This can open people’s eyes to how lucky we have it,” she said.
While in high school, Stoltz started Food for Thought, a club that focuses on the effects of worldwide childhood hunger and poverty, and she continued the group at the college, raising $16,500 overall.
SWIFT members meet Friday afternoons in the Towers Dining Hall after operations are closed down to repackage surplus food to take to meal distribution centers in the area. The two clubs’ similar ideals led them to collaboratively host the hunger banquet.
The banquet will feature speaker John Ward, homeless services director for the Tompkins County chapter of the American Red Cross. Ward works with the Tompkins County Food Distribution Network and has been instrumental in providing food and shelter to local residents in need.
Ward said his job as homeless services director has been incredibly fulfilling because of the gracious responses from prior shelter patrons.
“The most rewarding aspect is when former shelter clients come back to see us after we’ve helped them get on their feet and helped stabilize their lives to thank us for all of the hard work we did on their behalf,” Ward said.
Senior Kevin Michels, president of SWIFT, said Ward’s presence will strike a chord with the college community because of his direct involvement in the area.
“The hope is that by him coming, he can also shed light on the local situation, because by going to college and having all of our meals served to us, we forget that literally you drive five minutes down the road and there are people living off of food stamps,” Michels said.
Sophomore Marc Phillips is attending the event to support friends who are organizing it. In high school, he hosted a hunger banquet, and after witnessing its success, he has supported the Oxfam’s mission.
“I held this event for my B’nai B’rith youth group chapter,” he said. “It was a powerful message that resonated well with my suburban audience.”
Stoltz is confident the banquet will allow students to open their eyes to the reality of hunger that most of the world faces.
“We really want to empower kids on campus to see that they can learn about these issues, and they can do something tangible in their own ways to bring about change,” she said.
For more information about the Hunger Banquet and to RSVP, visit icfoodforthought.webs.com.