A crowd of about 80 University students and faculty gathered to discuss the issue of world hunger and to listen to speakers involved with local hunger prevention at the annual Hunger Breakfast in the Magill Club on Tuesday, Nov. 25.
“In the United States 17.6 million households are food insecure, which is about one in every seven,” said Dr. Rekha Datta, a political science profesor who coordinated the event. “Hunger is a huge aspect of our lives,” she continued.
Datta said that one of the causes of famines in other countries is malnourishment. “Worldwide, 805 million people do not have enough food to lead a healthy life,” she said.
Datta explained that in some areas of the world children are forced to drop out of school because they are too hungry to focus on their schoolwork.
Attendees were broken up into three groups which simulated three different social classes: green, blue, and yellow. Group members were then given a breakfast that people living in those social class would typically receive.
The green group represented the upper-class. Members were given a hard-boiled egg, apple juice, a banana, and a granola bar.
The blue group represented the middle-class and were given a muffin, granola bar, and juice box.
The yellow group represented the lower-class and were seated on the floor. Members were given a slice of bread and soda.
Dr. Nancy Mezey, Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, attended the event and was seated as an upper- class member of society.
“At one point I tried to give members of the lower-class some of my food and was not allowed to. This was upsetting,” said Mezey. “Visually, this exercise makes it seem real to me and makes me feel bad even though this happens everyday.”
Grant Lucking, a member of the New Jersey Food Council and University alumnus, said that it is important to remember that hunger is an issue in New Jersey. “New Jersey is 239 Supermarkets short,” Lucking said.
Lucking urged people to volunteer at local food banks and to donate food whenever possible.
“One in ten people living on the Jersey Shore needs food,” said Peter Grote, a representative of the Monmouth and Ocean County Food Bank and University alumnus. He said that last year the food bank distributed an estimated ten million pounds of food and that the need for food has increased by 85 percent since 2005.
Grote defined the term food insecure as “people who do not know where their next meal will come from.” He said that the food bank helps to feed these people and said that they run out of food quickly.
“If we did not receive any more food starting today we would run out of food in five weeks,” he said. Grote urged people to donate food and said that 50 percent of the food is donated while the other 50 percent is purchased.
Daniel Ratner, Director of Operations for the Move for Hunger Organization, explained the purpose of the non-profit organization. He said that Move for Hunger currently partners with about 600 moving companies in 49 states as well as Canada to collect food when people are in the process of moving from one location to another. They then donate the collected food to local food banks.
“It is a simple solution to the problem of hunger, we make it part of the process” said Ratner. The speaker encouraged the audience to educate themselves on the issue of hunger. “You can’t fix a problem you don’t know exists, it is important to open your eyes.”
Ratner expressed how the organization prevents food from being wasted. “Everyday Americans waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl to the top,” he maintained. “This organization is a small solution to this problem.”
The first year seminar class “Debating Globalization: World Hunger” also helped coordinate the event as part of a class project. “From this experience I learned that not everyone has the opportunity to be fed as well as we do in America,” said Gabby Giordano, a freshman art education major in the first year seminar class.
Datta explained how the University came together to donate food for thanksgiving. Non-perishable food items were collected on campus during the weeks before thanksgiving break until Nov. 24.
These locations included Bey, Wilson Hall, Plangere, Rechnitz, Edison, McAllan, the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC). Student Center, and the Library.
An estimated 300 pounds of food was donated, according to Dr. Rebecca Stanford, Assistant Chair of the Communications Department.
“The goal of the Hunger Breakfast and food drive was to bring awareness to this issue. The issue of hunger is so easy to ignore,” said Sanford. The donations went to the Monmouth and Ocean County Food Bank.
This is the tenth year that the Hunger Breakfast has taken place and is the third year that the first year seminar class has been involved with the planning, according to Datta.
“I am happy with the turnout and felt that people seemed engaged,” she said. “The goal of the event was to bring awareness to global hunger inequalities.”