Battling hunger the Homecoming way

For the first time ever, the U’s annual Hunger Banquet, to be held on Sept. 21, is taking place thanks to cooperation between long-time event organizers at the Bennion Community Service Center and first-time planners at the Alumni Association.

The banquet will take place during Homecoming Week this year, also for the first time ever, in hopes of increasing awareness and support for hunger issues both locally and abroad.

The Alumni Association, which is in charge of organizing Homecoming Week each year, is working with Bennion center student leaders to generate a larger audience base for the banquet, as well as add a new service element to Homecoming Week, which is expected to add greater depth to the week.

“[The cooperation] is really beneficial to both groups,” said Rico Snow, student president for the center. “It brings a new service element to Homecoming Week and it gives the banquet the opportunity to reach more people through the Alumni Association’s publicity and thanks to their support.”

With the networks and tools made available through cooperation with the association, the center is looking to nearly double attendance at the banquet.

“Alumni can reach out to a greater population than we can alone,” Snow said. ” Last year, there were about 170 people at the banquet. This year, we’re setting goals for 300.”

“We anticipate this being the biggest and best banquet yet,” said Brandon Lee, environmental coordinator at the center. “Thanks to the generous support of the alumni, we’ve had more publicity and support than ever before.”

The theme for this year’s banquet is “Feel the impact, fill the need.” The idea behind the theme is to make people more aware of the issues associated with hunger, and to gain support for fighting hunger in all its varying degrees.

In order to achieve these goals, banquet organizers plan to show that hunger is a real, palpable problem both locally and abroad by relating hunger to individuals’ own daily lives.

“Sometimes students feel like they are removed from the issues of hunger and that they can’t do anything to help,” said Amanda Wilson, publicist and logistics coordinator for the banquet. “We want people to feel the impact of the issues, we want to make it personal.”

Though actual examples of how banquet planners intend to make hunger personal are being kept secret at this time in order to make the banquet’s activities somewhat of a surprise, Wilson said individual participation and group interaction will be essential details.

Another major purpose of the banquet is to help generate support for lasting solutions to the problems of hunger, not just by telling people they can make a difference, but rather by actually showing them the ways to do it.

“At the banquet, you’ll learn about the ongoing struggle to combat hunger and the many ways you can make a difference,” Lee said.

These ways can be either direct or indirect, ranging from volunteer involvement with local food banks and homeless shelters to working for fair international trade in hopes of stabilizing the economies of famished countries.

According to Wilson, another indirect way to combat hunger on a more local level is to support the Pamela Atkins Homelessness Fund, which generates funds to help remedy issues of homelessness and hunger in Salt Lake City.

Students attending the banquet will need to pay either a $5 entrance fee or donate five non-perishable food items in order to gain admission, while non-students will have to pay $10 or donate 10 items.

All cash collected from the banquet will be donated to Oxfam America, a national service organization from which the initial model for the banquet was taken, and all donated collected food will be donated to the Utah Food Bank.

Funding for the banquet comes from the Bennion Center’s budget, as well as outside donations.

Those interested in learning more about the issues of hunger or the U’s hunger banquet can contact the Bennion Center, the Alumni Association on campus or can visit the Oxfam Web site at www.oxfam.org.

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