Hunger and awareness on the rise

On Wednesday, St. Cloud State hosted its fourth Oxfam Hunger Banquet at the Garvey Commons.
The event, which is hosted by a number of different departments and organizations, including the Department Of Campus Involvement and Civic Engagement, Multicultural Student Services and the Department Of Residential Life, sheds light on the subject of hunger and food insecurity locally, nationally and worldwide.
The event was also sponsored by other charitable organizations that were present at the Oxfam Hunger Banquet such as Kids Fighting Hunger, Catholic Charities, Central Minnesota Sustainability Project and United Way Of Central Minnesota.
The Oxfam Hunger Banquet focuses on putting attendees in the shoes of every economic demographic present in society today and how their income affects how they eat on a daily basis.
The majority of attendees were put in the lower class to signify the majority of the population, however at the other end of the spectrum, the upper class. The majority was served rice and water while the upper class was served a wholesome meal with a choice of beverage and service as well.
“I like this event because it gives people a chance to see the disparities between economic levels,” said Christian Ward, a junior at St. Cloud State University and a community leader in St. Cloud. Ward was a primary speaker for the banquet.
Prevalence of hunger in central Minnesota can be found in recent staggering statistics. Between all counties that represent St. Cloud and central Minnesota, the average percentage of people who experience hunger or food insecurity was at about 9.6 percent in 2012, with Benton County at the top of the charts with a percentage of 11.4 percent. The numbers have estimated to have grown since then.
“Food insecurity is huge in Minnesota like it is in many, many states,” said Beth Knutson-Kolodzne, the associate director in the department of campus involvement. “Not so long ago, in the past two years Minnesota ranked ninth in terms of unemployment and so when you have that you have lots of other issues that follow in terms of socioeconomics, places that people live, what they are able to eat, their access to food,” said Knutson-Kolodzne.
Another statistic, the use of food shelves in the last few years has gone up 166 percent locally.
“It’s a huge issue,” said Knutson-Kolodzne. “As the economy dipped over the last five or six years it became even more so and so that’s why we got involved over the last three years and this is our fourth time doing it.”
“I think this event can effect you on a lot of levels just because it kinda, it really gives you a snapshot of the inequality of how food is distributed around our world,” said Klare Armstrong, an assistant hall director at St. Cloud State University. “It’s a struggle to get food for your family and a meal on the table everyday for a lot of families in the United States, in Minnesota and in the world.”
Since the first time the event was hosted at St. Cloud State University, Knutson-Kolodzne has seen a constant increase in participation among students. More students want to make a difference Knutson-Kolodzne says and they are there to give students just that, the tools they need to be impactful on an issue much more prevalent that many people in our community and the entire world may think.

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