Tonight, Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) and Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School students will see, smell, and taste firsthand what 60 percent of the world's hungry population experience every day as they participate in the Vineyard Committee on Hunger's (VCOH) Hunger Banquet.
The program, created by Oxfam International (formally the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief), is a free, virtual, hands-on educational experience. "It's a free meal with a side order of education," according to the statement from event organizers.
Hunger Banquet coordinator Betty Burton explains, "The students will come in and draw a card out of a basket [that informs them] what their persona is for the evening."
The cards are divided into categories that represent the world's population in proportional numbers. This year's Hunger Banquet food preparation will be supervised by Jeri Dantzig.
Fifteen percent of those attending the Hunger Banquet representing those privileged, will be going to a table formally set with china, and draped with linen where they will enjoy a four- or five-course meal. Their dinner will include sushi (donated by The Net Result in Vineyard Haven), salad, rack of lamb and Cornish game hens (donated and prepared by Ms. Dantzig) as well as a chocolate mousse dessert (donated by Le Grenier restaurant in Vineyard Haven).
Twenty-five percent of those attending will represent that portion of the world's population who live within modest, but sustainable means, and will be seated at a separate table and be served a meal of rice and beans for dinner along with tea, bread, and sparkling cider - all donated by Cronig's Market.
Students representing the poorest 60 percent of the world's population will stand in line to receive their food. Women will be made to stand at the back of the line. These people will sit on the floor and eat the quarter cup of rice and "dirty" water that is handed them.
"If we run out of food we will run out of food just as happens in the poorest nations of the world," Ms. Burton added. "The students will see firsthand how many of the world's population are hungry," she explained.
During the Hunger Banquet there will be a number of speakers helping those attending understand the hunger crisis worldwide.
VCOH began staging this event 20 years ago. This is the first year that Charter School students will be participating along with the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School students. More than 100 students are expected to attend.
"In the past, the event has become sort of a theater with people going around begging for food," Ms. Burton said. "It is a lot of fun. The kids get really involved, and it is an eye-opening experience. There are going to be waiters in black suits, ties, with formal towels draped over their arms and it is interesting for people to see the differences in lifestyles around the world. It becomes fun to do and to participate in."
The Eco MV store in Vineyard Haven is donating the biodegradable bowls, plates, utensils, glasses, and garbage bags.
The Hunger Banquet, Martha's Vineyard Regional High School cafeteria, March 26, 6 to 7:30 pm. No reservations are needed. Open to the public. Donations accepted for Vineyard Committee on Hunger. For more information, call Betty Burton, 508-693-5339.
Susan Silk is a freelance writer living in West Tisbury.