Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Banquet Teaches Students About Hunger, Raises Funds To Help Others

May 05, 2016 02:08PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray - Spending money on a banquet, only to end up sitting on newspapers on the floor and eating rice and beans, may not sound much like a date night, yet many teenagers and families did just that.

On March 11, students from Cottonwood, Skyline, Academy for Math Engineering & Science, and Horizonte schools held a hunger banquet to educate the community about hunger issues. As participants entered Cottonwood High, they drew a slip of paper with a profile of a real person they were representing that night. They learned they were either a first-, second- or third-world citizen.

“Most of us were third world, or poverty stricken, sitting on the floor on newspaper,” said Robyn Ivins, who helped with the event. “The meal was rice and beans. The men ate first, followed by the women and they had to serve themselves.”

In the second-class world, the middle income sat in chairs and ate pizza with breadsticks. They got their own food, and everyone ate at the same time. 

The first world, or high income, sat at tables with chairs, tablecloths, nice plates and silverware, and they ate a pulled pork sandwiches, salad, with ice water. They received their meals by dressed-up servers.

Ivins said the idea of hosting a hunger banquet came around their family dinner table that included her sister-in-law, Tiffany Ivins Spence, as well as family friend, Cottonwood senior Sarah Ratzlaff. The latter two mostly organized the event.

“We did it in college, and were talking to our son about it when Sarah thought it would be an amazing opportunity for the school. She’s really passionate about helping people. So she and Tiffany, who organized it in college, started talking and inviting friends at high schools to get involved,” Ivins said, adding that the preparation began three months before the event.

Sarah said that her school serves numerous relocated refugees.

“We have 54 different languages at Cottonwood, and whites are the minority,” she said. “I think students can relate that the world is crazy unfair, and poverty isn’t just a lack of food but unequal access to what we all have.

In addition to getting 160 student volunteers, Sarah also sought and received donations for all the meals served that evening. 

“I thought it was an awesome experience for 400 people,” Sarah said. “It bonded students and our community, and there was no out-of-pocket expenses. We wanted to make people aware of the issues, and we had discussion as people shared the people they represented and how they felt during the banquet. There were a lot of families; some kids had a hard time processing it at first and didn’t understand why they couldn’t have a different meal or have dessert. It definitely was a cool experience and made me again realize that I’ve been so lucky in life with the support of my family and friends. This is definitely something that will stick with me.” 

The evening included cultural entertainment, including a multi-cultural dance group from Skyline High, an acoustic guitarist and Brigham Young University professor and Utah-based Interweave Solutions Literacy for Social Change Director Lynn Curtis as the guest speaker.

“He was amazing,” Ivins Spence said. “He travels internationally and would tell stories of how impoverished villages would tell those who wanted to help them how they needed help, not just to come in and give them things. People need to learn what their needs are first, not what we think they need. We need to let them help themselves and give them what they need to do just that.”

The $6 banquet tickets and donations totaling $9,000 will go to help train Interweave volunteers in educating females in a Moroccan village and teach them how to be self-sufficient and gain employment. Interweave works with the World Educational Research Institute and uses the open content for development curriculum on the website, Ivins Spence said.

However, the main goal, she said, was to raise awareness of others.

“Many of these high school students will never want for anything,” Ivins Spence said. “However, there’s a huge percentage of the world who sit on the floor eating rice and beans, not having a meal of pizza and steak. I want these students to be aware how blessed we are and how they can volunteer and have the resources to help others.”