Did you know that we are part of the 15 percentile in the world who can afford to eat every day, and eat what they want? As part of their poverty and world hunger unit, Grade 7 students took part in last week’s Hunger Banquet, which ties in with their volunteer work at the local food bank. It was an eye-opening lesson for our students, as Eric said, “I learned that almost half of the earth's population live in poverty".
It all started on Friday, October 18, when the students were "surprised" during their classes and assembled together in the Upper Elementary Atrium for an interesting and realistic experience. Students were placed into three different groups, based on income and social class, which reflected current statistics on our world’s population and income - high, middle and low income. This random selection helped our students understand that they have little control over which group they belong to and how much food they receive, similar to how people around the globe have little choice as to the economic circumstances into which they are born.
Students experienced firsthand how food is distributed in our world, with each income group receiving a meal according to the random income group in which they had been placed. Student Rui said "we got a heads up on how the world actually is" and Kaia added "I can't believe that not everyone in the world gets food even though there is enough for everyone". Students in the high-income group were given a three-course meal including dessert - served with cutlery, seated at a proper table and served by the teachers and a few volunteer parents. In contrast, the other two groups received a very different lunch - the middle-income group received unlimited portions of rice with beans and water, however, only in paper cups and they had to serve themselves, even though they had a seat at a table. Lower income group members only received bread, with no cutlery at all and sat on the floor; some didn't receive any bread at all if the portions ran out.
During the course of the banquet, some of the students had to change income groups due to climate changes, natural disasters, family issues and/or political circumstances, with real-life scenarios showing students how different types of events outside of our control can change our social and economic standing. Some students moved up the ladder into higher economic groups, while others moved down, losing their place at a table or even their small portion of rice. During the serving of dessert to the higher income group, there was quite some excitement as students receiving little or no food began to protest. Grade 7 student William said "I've learned that the world is unfair.''
Only a handful of the students left the banquet with a full stomach but all the students started to have a better understanding of the problems of hunger and poverty in our world today. At the end of this simulation Aminah said "we now know how many people are living in poverty and we shouldn't waste our food" but it she wasn’t the only one who voiced concern, many other students showed empathy, motivation and a willingness to do something to improve the situation of others.
All in all, It was an invaluable learning experience, and we thank the teachers and parents who volunteered to help prepare the meals and organize this important and realistic simulation.