Fortunately for those who avail themselves, there are no fewer than 23 organizations in the region with the sole purpose of feeding hungry people. For them, hunger is not an option, and their ongoing efforts to provide a nutritional base to people in need are magnanimous to say the least.
This Sunday, March 28, twelve local hunger relief organizations will come together to host the first collaborative hunger event in the Hudson Valley: a Hunger Banquet, to be held at Backstage Productions on Wall Street in Kingston. Anyone who has experienced an Oxfam Hunger Banquet can attest to the powerful opening of eyes, hearts and dialogue that occurs for participants. A Hunger Banquet allows people to get a firsthand feel for the inequities of fate that cause chronic hunger in the world.
Upon arrival at the Banquet, guests draw tickets at random that assign them to either a high-, middle- or low-income tier. These are based on the latest statistics about the number of people currently living in poverty. Then, each income level receives a meal corresponding to its economic fortune (or lack of it). So, for example, the 15 percent of guests in the high-income tier are served a sumptuous meal (at this event to be catered by celebrated chef Samir Srichi of Ship to Shore in the Rondout); the 35 percent in the middle-income section will dine on an offering from the Kingston City School District lunch menu; and the 50 percent in the low-income tier help themselves to small portions of white rice, white bread and water.
According to Reeder, who was the guest speaker at the Marist College Hunger Banquet, this accentuates the spread of demographics to cover three broad categories: people with affluence and an overabundance of food - ones who never have to worry; people with food insecurity, which is different from hunger - they have access to calories, but not the best food, and they're sometimes only one paycheck away from being hungry and homeless (the most rapidly growing demographic in our area is children); and half of the people on this planet who do not know if they are eating today or tomorrow. And to magnify the sheer arbitrary luck that throws people into one category or another, guests at the Hunger Banquet will be asked to trade their tickets with someone else in the group, mimicking the fate of people who start out in the top tier and somehow end up in the streets. Reeder says, "Every person in the US should experience this. It's a shocking but powerful experience."
Tickets to the Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet are $35, benefiting the Queens Galley, Family of Woodstock, Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Ulster Corps, Angel Food East, Saint James Food Pantry, Rosendale Food Pantry, People's Place, Chiz's Heart Street, God Given Bread Food Pantry and Libertyview Farm. Chef Sarah Copeland (also a writer, blog author of Edible Living, recipe developer for the Food Network Magazine, spokesperson for the Food Network and Share Our Strength's fight against childhood hunger and a co-founder of the Good Food Gardens initiative) will be the guest speaker, highlighting Michelle Obama's initiatives to connect people with food.
For more information about the event on Sunday, March 28 from 5 to 7 p.m., e-mail HVHB@thequeensgalley.org. Tickets can be purchased through participating organizations or online at www.nycharities.org/events/eventlevels.aspx?ETID=1006.