Stomachs for Empathy simulation explores hunger, social classes

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They could either give up their extra food or beg the upper class for a meal. This was one of the scenarios Marshall University students faced Wednesday, during a simulation at the Hunger Banquet hosted by Student Affairs.

“It was really heartbreaking,” said Emilie Christenberry, a sophomore criminal justice major who participated in the simulation.

Flyers for the Hunger Banquet sported the phrase “Stomachs for Empathy” and promised free food and university excused absences to all who attended the event in Marco’s in the basement of the Memorial Student Center.

Students were encouraged to “come hungry” because they would be leaving “full,” but it was not the meal that was intended to appease their appetite— it was reality.

Students were given colored slips of paper when they entered the room, which dictated which “class” they’d be seated with during the “meal.”

Some slips contained a name and short biography that would play into the event’s scenarios. Some students lost money, some moved up the social ladder and others “died” from hunger.

The upper class enjoyed fine dining at the head of the room, while the lower class sat amongst trash behind a rickety fence where a crow watched their every move, as if waiting for them to move onto the graveyard in the back corner.

“I wasn’t even sure what it was when I came over here,” said Brittany Davis, a graduate student getting her doctorate in psychology.

Once she saw the screens, which displayed images and facts about world hunger, Davis said she caught on to what was happening.

“I ended up being adopted from poverty and not dying,” Davis said.

Christenberry teared up as she reached through the fence to offer a burrito to her friend in the lower class.

 “I don’t want them to beg me for food,” Christenberrry said.

Representatives from Harmony House and the Huntington City Mission set up outside of the banquet to answer students’ questions at the end and to offer information to those interested in volunteering. Dry food donations were also accepted.

“I feel like that everybody should be willing to be helpful and to help others,” Christenberry said.

“I think that it’s important that there are other people around you that need your help and that you should just be kind always.”

The event was hosted in part with OXFAM America Hunger Banquet as part of Unity Month at Marshall.

Makaylah Wheeler can be contacted at w[email protected].

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