On Tuesday, October 1 Food Fighters held our annual Hunger Dinner for students, faculty and community partners. Every year this event raises awareness about hunger on a global scale and on local levels, such as the Jacksonville area. The Hunger Dinner is a hunger simulation, which includes a presentation by Dr. Lauri Wright and students volunteers who convey facts about food insecurity. Dr. Wright is the founding director for the Center for Nutrition and Food Security in the Brooks College of Health.
The simulation began with attendees drawing a number at registration to determine which group they would join in the simulation. If a #1 was drawn, they were individuals who lived in a wealthy, developed country and sat at tables with chairs. If they drew a #2, they sat in chairs with no tables, symbolizing they were living in a moderately wealthy, developed country. If they drew a #3, they sat on the floor with no tables or chairs, symbolizing they were living in the world’s poorest countries. Numbers for each area were disproportionate, with #3 being the majority for the draws. This was intentional because it demonstrated how much more of the world is disproportionate with regard to money and resources. Participants were asked to move to different groups as their circumstances changed. These circumstances were based on real life occurrences, both globally and locally in Jacksonville. For example, two participants from group 2 were already on a fixed income, but when a hurricane hit Jacksonville, they lost everything moving them to the lowest income represented in group 3.
Each group was then informed of what they could eat based upon their number in order to give them a more realistic and personal feel. Participants in group #1 were served chicken, rice, and a nutritious salad. Participants in group #2 were served just rice and beans. Finally, participants in group #3 were served only rice. After everyone had been served according to their group number, we announced the simulation was over and everyone could help themselves to all of the food provided. We then began discussing how it felt to be part of the simulation. The feedback from the participants was how incredibly moving it was to share so deeply. it was clear everyone in the room had been affected by the simulation.
Dr. Wright then gave a presentation about hunger. She began with a quiz to assess the group’s knowledge about hunger. She then addressed the main problems surrounding hunger and provided alarming statistics and key definitions. The call to action informed us how we can support programs with our volunteerism, help increase the availability of healthy food, and educate others about the cause. We ended the event by announcing the current numbers of impact achieved through Food Fighters. As of that event, Food Fighters had recovered 19,753 pounds of food and delivered 20,876 meals since Spring 2017.
This event was deeply meaningful to me. Last year I attended the Hunger Dinner and it was my first exposure to Food Fighters. I immediately began volunteering weekly after that. Many who attended this year began volunteering with us after the Hunger Dinner as well. Something important we all walked away with was the reminder that food insecurity is defined as a condition where, “access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food is limited,” and that 20.1% of residents in Duval County are food insecure. We are making a difference every day with Food Fighters, and we couldn’t do it without our amazing volunteers and partners. I want to thank UNF Dining Services who graciously donated the food we used for this event as well as past hunger dinner events.