Everyone who walked in the door picked a coloured ticket out of a bag. People who chose an orange ticket represented the 15 percent of the world’s population who live really well. They would dine on a very fancy five course meal. I chose a blue ticket, representing the 25 percent of the world’s population who get by on a middling income, but are always uncertain as to what the future holds. Dinner was a green salad, and pasta. People who chose a purple ticket were in the low-income group, representing the other 60 percent of the world population. Their dinner consisted of rice and beans.
As the evening progressed, people from the middle and low income groups had no choice but to watch the rich people eat their fancy meals until their food started to arrive. The low income group had to wait the longest to get their rice and beans, a fact that was not lost on some of the people I spoke with who said they were quite hungry by the time their meals arrived.
One of the dinner speakers was Mark Fried, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator for Oxfam Canada. One of the more startling comments he made was that it is many of the world’s farmers…the people who grow food, who actually go hungry. Fried acknowledges that the factors leading to hungry farmers are many and complicated, but international trade policy is at the root.
While Oxfam provides emergency food relief all over the world, part of Mark Fried’s job is to lobby governments to change their policies. Another key to reducing hunger is to secure more funding for education, particularly for young women.
Fried says eighty cents out of every dollar donated to Oxfam Canada for non-emergency situations goes toward development projects. But sometimes projects that have been in the works for years fail because of monetary crises or civil wars.
The hunger banquet I took part in was a simple but effective way to show the way many people have to live their lives.