For the City Times
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Mid-State Technical College hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet on Oct. 11, an interactive event that simulates the issues of hunger and poverty experienced throughout the world. Over 40 students and community members participated in the free, volunteer-led event.
Attendees were randomly assigned to one of three different income levels and given a typical meal representative of that level, from one bowl of black beans and rice at the lowest level to black beans, rice, pasta, chicken and a side salad at the highest. Low-income participants were also given no silverware and no place to sit other than the floor.
The event included a focus on poverty in central Wisconsin. Mid-State service and health instructor Carrie Engelbright provided an honest look at food insecurities in the central Wisconsin area, and participants shared personal stories about poverty, including frustrations and why it is often difficult to overcome.
“In Wood County we’ve seen a rise in people receiving food share benefits from 5.8 percent in 2000 to 24.6 percent in 2013,” Engelbright said, adding that Wisconsin Rapids is a USDA-identified food desert area, which means that a sizable portion of the community has low access to affordable foods. She urged the importance of awareness and knowing how to combat the issue to achieve healthy individuals, families and communities.
According to Mid-State Marketing student Derek Dodds, the most eye-opening moment came when participants at the event were moved from one income level to another based on random life events. “Even though several people moved up or down a level or two, no one moved down from the high income level, which makes sense because people in that group have the money and support systems to weather hard times,” he said.