|Hunger banquet gives students taste of reality|
Guests from United Methodist churches in Oklahoma
eat a small meal during a hunger banquet sponsored by Denver Urban
UMNS photos by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
Aug. 6, 2008 | DENVER (UMNS)
As high school students on a mission trip enter a church dining hall,
they soon discover that what they eat depends on their presumed lot in
"There wasn’t enough," complains one student who received a small bowl
of macaroni and cheese, representing what might be a typical meal for a
Devon Hein, an intern at Denver Urban Ministries, packs groceries for the organization's food bank.
Organized by Denver Urban Ministries, the hunger banquet was designed to
show the daily challenges faced by many families. A drawing determined
what meal each student would eat, with working-class people making up
the largest group.
"We don't always realize that we don't all eat the same," explains
Carolyne Schultz, urban education coordinator for the United
Methodist-related Denver Urban Ministries.
"The youth come knowing that they’re going to do volunteer work and that
they’re going to meet some neat people and do some great work. But what
they don’t always know … is they’re not just coming to help others,
that they’re coming to learn about themselves, too."
This summer, nearly 40 students from United Methodist churches in rural
Oklahoma were among those who came to Denver to spend a week with the
ministry and work on community projects.
‘My heart broke’
For the banquet, students chosen to represent the middle class eat a
better meal than those in the working class—spaghetti with meat sauce
and salad. Another group, representing the top 10 percent of wage
earners, is served the best meal, including a chicken breast and
strawberry shortcake for dessert.
In the corner, Jessica Grace, representing the homeless, receives only a bowl of soup.
"It’s definitely canned soup, and it’s not that great," says Grace, 15, a member of Ringling (Okla.) United Methodist Church.
Soon, several students begin to see what their friends are eating and
say the meal is "unfair." Some consider sharing part of their meal with
others, but believe there is a rule against sharing.
Finally, Allison Bevers, 17, a member of Lindsay (Okla.) United
Methodist Church, shares her strawberry shortcake with someone from
Allison Bevers represents the “upper class” during the hunger banquet.
"My heart pretty much broke tonight when they talked about just the kids
being homeless," says Bevers. "It was very life-changing."
Bevers says the banquet encouraged her to consider new ways to help the needy.
"If you hang out with people that are just like yourself, whether it’s
how much money they make or their character, you never grow," she says.
"You have to put yourself out there with people that you aren’t
comfortable with because then you become comfortable."
Grace, representing the homeless at the banquet, says the experience encouraged her to do more for others as well.
"I think this experience has helped me to maybe even step out more of my
comfort zone than I already have," she says, "and maybe, you know, do
something for other people."
Miya Stevens, 18, a member of the Lindsay church, says the banquet gave her insights into the plight of the homeless.
"In Denver, I didn’t know that there were 60 percent homeless that were
families; they’re people that have kids," she says. "I would have never
Doug Coker, 17, a member of First United Methodist Church of Davis,
Okla., says the banquet helped him question perceived rules about
"I guess in real life, people think there are rules," Coker says. "But, you know, you can help out as much as you can."
Executive Director Tammy Mulligan says Denver Urban
Ministries has seen requests for food increase by more than one-third
Denver Urban Ministries has seen a 34 percent increase in the number of
families requesting food assistance in the first four months of this
year. The ministry was founded by The United Methodist Church in 1981and
receives support from area churches.
During the weeklong mission trip, the Oklahoma students planted
vegetables in a community garden, packed supplies for a medical
warehouse and helped at an adult day-care center.
Schultz, the coordinator of the banquet for Denver Urban Ministries, says she hopes the lessons will be lasting.
"I’m really glad that they had that opportunity to take a step outside
of who they are at home and to see the world from someone else’s
perspective," she says. "I think that’s really powerful."
Denver Urban Ministries was established by United Methodist clergy and
laity in 1981 as a 501(c)(3) human service agency to provide emergency
and stabilization services in Denver’s most impoverished neighborhoods.
More information is available at its Web site, http://www.denum.org/ or by calling (303) 355-4896.
*Gordon is a freelance producer based in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
How Hunger Feels
Kids Fight Hunger
Small partner churches win food race
UMCOR trains farmers to expand food supply
World food crisis especially impacts the poor
Food shortages hurt church response to hunger
U.N. urges practical steps to help hungry
Stop Hunger Now marks 10th with million meal event
Denver Urban Ministries
Society of St. Andrew
Stop Hunger Now