World hunger banquet

High school class creates graphic depiction of haves and have-nots.

From left, Garrett Hagen, Tiki Greene, Lucy Enos and Maddy Tully at the "low income earner" area — Courtesy Lara O'Brien

On Friday, April 28, the Irish History class at the high school presented a world hunger banquet to draw attention to their studies on famine and world hunger. They invited guests — Christine Ferron’s senior English class and Lauren Goethal’s history class — to participate in a student-led demonstration.

The event was hosted by culinary teachers Jack O’Malley and Cindy Cowen in the culinary room. Seniors James Sashin and Thomas Weston acted as presenters for the demonstration. Thomas opened, detailing how world hunger is driven by inequality in access to resources, resulting in illiteracy, poverty, war, and the inability of families to grow or buy goods.

The room was divided into three areas: the rich table, the area for middle-income earners of the world, and finally the largest area, which represented low-income earners — here people sat cross-legged on the floor around a large bowl of rice.

James explained the statistical view of what world wealth looks like, and each group discussed their living situation and shared their thoughts. The world’s high-income earners make over $12,000 a year, the middle class earns under $12,000, and the low-income class earns under $980 a year.

Each group’s spokesperson gave a brief explanation of what they thought about their status, and the thoughts ranged from “there are too many people in the world” to the importance of education.The middle class thought the richer class was smarter and had more opportunities. They spoke about how they felt about being middle class, about sickness and the issues of those living in poverty. The rich table presented their argument that they are talented and provide work and money for everyone.

Dr. Elaine Weintraub summed up the demonstration, “I think the most profound aspect of the whole activity was the way the different groups operated. The largest group was the world’s poor, sitting on the floor eating rice from a common bowl and sharing a few cups of water. This group did not enjoy watching the middle class eat their meal, and the rich eat their various fancy cakes.”

This situation was analyzed with great insight by James Sashin, who observed that “the poor always get blamed for crime and for not being educated and hard-working, but we see it here playing out. There is nothing for the poor to enjoy about this. We have mistreated them, and they gain nothing.” Words of wisdom indeed.

Dr. Elaine Weintraub leads the Irish History class and is chair of the history department at the high school.

She teaches history by engaging students, asking them questions about their own history, about modern-day famines and our role in them. By involving the students’ personal narratives, she stokes their interest and encourages their critical thinking.

I also fell under her spell of searching for answers and learning lessons from the past.