Student Pam Tomany (center) delivers a delecacy of finer foods that represent a part of the world of prosperity to participants Chuck Timm of Batavia (left) and Anna Alanis of Elgin, during a “hunger banquet” Tuesday at ECC. November 20, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 7:04AM
ELGIN — Brady Reish ate her dinner of water, rice and a few beans on top of a cardboard “table” scattered with dirt and sticks laid out on the floor in an Elgin Community College classroom.
On the other side of the room, Chuck Timm ate his dinner of salad, chicken and vegetables, sparkling grape juice and dessert on white-linen tablecloths with cloth napkins and floral centerpieces.
Both Reish, 20, and Timm, 65, paid the same — $3 — to learn more about how food disparity affects people across the planet.
Sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa and Amnesty International clubs at ECC, the Tuesday night event was both a fundraiser for OxFam and a learning experience for the 51 people who attended. OxFam describes itself as “an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.”
Dakota Buyka, 20, of Algonquin helped to organize the event as part of Phi Theta Kappa’s Honors In Action program.
This year, the ECC Rho Kappa chapter chose to focus on the competition for food. The chapter is researching and planning events to address the question of hunger, called “Food Fight: Competition and Food,” Buyka said.
After professor Marc Healy laid out some of basics about hunger across the planet, each of those attending were told to open an envelope that would tell them how they would eat that night.
A green card meant they got to have the best, richest food available. Blue cards had the median income dinner of lentil soup, bread and hot tea. Those with red cards were assigned the lowest income dinner of rice and beans.
Water woes, too
To illustrate how many in the lowest income areas also can’t rely on the availability of clean water, their water was colored with green food dye, Buyka said.
After the dinner, the students and others attending discussed the issues surrounding food inequality, and what they can do themselves to help.
Timm said he was startled by one thing: Students sitting cafeteria-style at the medium-income tables offered some of their bread to those sitting in the low-income floor.
“We were over here, and we didn’t even think about offering it, or about who was over there,” Timm said.
While in his own life he does try to help those less-advantaged than his family, the disparity reminded him “that there are lower-class people, and I should be helping them,” Timm said.
The middle-income food was representative of people living in Eastern Europe and parts of India and China. Umraan Syed was one of those sitting there, and he said he was aware of the food inequality because his parents had seen it in their home country.
“We are speaking about (food inequality), but we weren’t aware of the facts,” Syed said. “That was extremely eye-opening.”