This isn't about count your blessings. This is about doing something. - Chico
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A Hard Lesson in Hunger
BY HILARY GROUTAGE SMITH / THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
KAYSVILLE -- A group of high school students from Davis County will look at Thanksgiving differently this year, thanks to a school activity Friday that brought the issue of world hunger squarely to their plates.
More than 100 students waited eagerly for what they thought was an assembly at the Davis School District's alternative high school, until they were divided randomly into three groups that were meant to represent the world's population.
Fifteen percent sat at tables with silverware and centerpieces and were served a balanced meal of green salad, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli with cheese sauce, and cheesecake for dessert.
Thirty percent were seated in chairs and fed rice, beans and water.
Fifty-five percent sat on the floor of the school's commons area and were served rice and water with no utensils.
"This is messed up" said Nicholas Owen, a student in the rice-and-water group.
Mountain High School teachers and administrators reminded students to remove themselves from their role as American teenagers and instead, concentrate on how the activity reflected the way other people in the world live.
Brandi Smith said her rice and beans tasted a little like what she gets at Taco Bell, but that doesn't mean she was excited about the meal. "I feel bad for people who are poor. They can come to my Thanksgiving," she said.
The program, called the Hunger Banquet, was presented by home economics teacher Rochelle Welty, who recently returned from two years of religious service in India. "It's been difficult to come back and see the ingratitude in our country. I wanted the kids to be aware of life around the world," she said.
Teachers also wanted to illustrate how education can change a person's life. "We want them to remember that," Welty said
The banquet program was created by the Boston-based Oxfam of America organization and is billed as a "dramatization of the unequal distribution of resources and wealth in the world."
Students learned that 793 million people suffer from chronic hunger in the world. About 24,000 people a day die from the effects of hunger and other preventable causes. The material provided by Oxfam points out that the planet produces enough to feed every woman, man and child, but food is distributed and consumed in an inequitable manner.
Since 1970, Oxfam America has been promoting change through hundreds of grass-roots organizations around the world. Besides its work overseas, Oxfam supports small-scale farmers in the United States and has designed the Hunger Banquet to remind Americans there is hunger worldwide, the United States included, perhaps even at the Davis County school.
After the banquet, the students decided they would take on a community project for the holidays.
The exercise got their attention.
Desirae Jordon refused to touch her rice with her fingers and pronounced it "gross." But, she said, the assembly was a good way to see what people in developing countries have to eat.
Across the room at the bountiful table, Amber Matejka said, "It's a good life!" as her principal served her dessert. "We get waited on. Score."
Jennifer Kindall had a different take on her good fortune and sat for a long time staring at the plate heaped with hot food.
"I kind of feel guilty," she said. "I don't know if I'll eat it."