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University Oxfam America chapter hosts hunger banquet

Event aimed to increase awareness of global inequalities

<p>The University's chapter of Oxfam America aims to turn students' attention to the alarming statistics regarding global poverty. </p>

The University's chapter of Oxfam America aims to turn students' attention to the alarming statistics regarding global poverty. 

The University chapter of Oxfam America hosted its first annual hunger banquet Wednesday to increase awareness of global hunger and poverty.

Attendees rolled dice to gamble for the “high stakes” of a Chipotle burrito. After drawing cards at random, students were placed in low, middle and high income groups, which determined their meal quality. Those in the high-income group received personal Chipotle burritos and chips to eat at a fully set table. Low-income groups shared a bowl of rice on the floor and ate with their hands.

The number of attendees assigned to each class corresponded to poverty rates around the globe. Five people sat at the high-income table, while a slightly larger group represented the middle income in folding chairs. An even larger group took to the floor, representing those of low income.

“I thought it was an insightful and eye-opening way to raise awareness about not just hunger but the nature of poverty as well,” second-year College student Sam Needham said.

President Paige McDermott, a fourth-year College student who founded the club last year, said she was pleased with the turnout and hoped the event would have a lasting impact on participants.

“I always knew when I applied to U.Va. … that I wanted to make an impact that was bigger than just myself in the world,” McDermott said. “I attended [an Oxfam America ‘Change’ program] and coming back I wanted to find a way to bring it to U.Va.”

Oxfam America is a national organization working to “right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Oxfam saves lives, develops long-term solutions to poverty, and campaigns for social change,” according to its website.

“With global hunger and poverty, there aren’t necessarily tangible things that you can do quickly to enact change tomorrow, but there are a lot of things as a student you can do to slowly make a change,” said Katie Carter, rising group president and a third-year College student. “Oxfam is a place people can come to if they want to change the world.”

Oxfam America at U.Va. raises awareness in part by drawing attention to global hunger-related statistics.

“Two thousand University students [would] be going to bed hungry every night if we were distributed the same way the world is,” McDermott said. “We wanted to raise awareness about that statistic since so many people here live in a [University] bubble.”

The organization also encourages students to make daily efforts in the fight against global hunger. Through petitions, discussion and demonstrations, the group hopes to make an impact on the way students see the world and the problem of inequality.

“It’s very student-friendly; anyone can do it,” Carter said. “Meatless Mondays: you can do that. Eating seasonally: you can do that. Eating locally: you can do that.”

Though many other organizations on Grounds strive for similar goals, Oxfam America at U.Va.’s name recognition and passion sets it apart.

“We have that name attached to our club already,” Carter said. “Some people have heard of Oxfam America. It’s in the news. It’s doing actual things. There are actual people. We are presenting a cohesive look to the community, to U.Va.”

Going forward from the hunger banquet, members of the University chapter said they hope to increase their presence at the University.

“I hope [students] realize how global poverty and hunger [are problems concerning distribution, not resources],” said Maddie Swartzwelder, environmental chair and fourth-year College student. “It’s something really important that people aren’t aware of. I hope that it resonates with them and they go home and talk about it with their friends.”

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