Groups Fight Food Insecurity

Victoria Ware, Reporter

Combatting food insecurity and providing meals to those in need will serve as the focus of two events headed by Marshall University faculty and students.

The Hunger Banquet is an interactive learning event that will take place on Thursday, Apr. 21 in the Memorial Student Center. Sociology Professor Kristi Fondren has coordinated the event for her social stratification class. The event itself has received sponsorship from the Office of Student Affairs.

“It’s an experiential learning event,” Fondren said. “It’s a simulation… Students basically draw their lots at random when they walk in and that will determine where [they] sit. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to stay seated there—there’s some things that happen.”

“Basically, food is used to represent the unequal distribution of food in the world as we focus on global poverty and hunger,” Fondren said. “The idea is ‘come hungry, we are going to feed you.’ There’s going to be more than enough food to feed every single person in that room, but you will see it’s not distributed in an equal fashion.”

“So, our hope is that they will come hungry and leave full— maybe of food, but hopefully of knowledge on this issue. And that it will have enough of an impact on them to see this visually—to see the unequal distribution of food—that they will want to act and if they can’t act in a global way, they can act in a local way…” Fondren said.

Fondren said that she hopes

the event will make people more empathetic towards those that are in need and suffering from food insecurity.

“One of the big things is awareness…about global poverty and hunger and the unequal distribution of food and resources because hunger is about power and access to resources on a global scale, but also locally,” Fondren said.

“We really hope this event will bring out empathy in people and students so, that they will like to be involved,” Fondren said, “So many times with everything going on we focus on ourselves and what we have and don’t have, or we might be looking above us to what we want to achieve at that next level.”

“We think about where we are,” Fondren said. “We look at what we want to achieve and aim for, but we forget. So, we hope that it will create greater empathy towards others and motivate students to act both locally [and] globally too.”

Empty Bowls is annual event in which ceramic bowls created primarily by Marshall art students are sold in order to raise money for the Facing Hunger Food Bank. The event will take place on Friday at Pullman Square.

“Empty Bowls is a national initiative fundraiser where ceramic artists and schools with ceramic programs work together as a community to sell handmade ceramic bowls, and then the proceeds from those fundraisers benefit local food banks all across the country,” Ceramics Professor Allora McCullough said.

“The one here in Huntington has been connected with the Facing

Hunger Food Bank for 19 years,” McCullough said. “Specifically here at Marshall, our students participate not only by producing the ceramic bowls to sell at the fundraiser, but each of them also volunteer six hours of time at the Facing Hunger Food Bank so that they get that community service experience.”

McCullough said that Empty Bowls is beneficial to the community because it’s purpose it to provide food to those in need.

“I think especially since the changes that have happened with Covid, food scarcity is a pretty real issue in our community,” McCullough said. “So, Facing Hunger Food Bank provides food and resources not just in Huntington, but in 17 surrounding counties between West Virginia, southern Ohio and Kentucky.”

“For every bowl which is sold for $20, that money is able to provide enough funds through the food bank for 180 meals,” McCullough said. “So, a single bowl produces 180 meals for those in our community who need supplementary assistance to put food on the table and that’s massive because you figure if we sell 1,000 bowls… that’s 180,000 meals to benefit people in our community.”

“I think that that can be the difference between a kid going hungry over the weekend when they don’t have access to food at school or that can be the difference between an elderly person waiting on their Social Security income to be able to eat from month to month,” McCullough said. “I think it quite literally saves lives.”