A meager meal was had by all at the 14th annual University of Utah Hunger Banquet.
Hosted by the Bennion Center’s University Service Coalition on Tuesday, the event brought speakers and organizations to discuss food insecurity in Utah, and attendees ate a small meal of soup, salad and rolls.
To get in, three cans of food or $5 were required. Around 85 people donated 80 pounds of canned food and $200 — all of which went to the U’s Food Pantry, Utahns Against Hunger’s Real Food Rising campaign and the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots project.
Natalie Blanton, chair of the University Service Coalition and a graduate student in sociology, organized the event.
“I think the ideology that food is a luxury is to blame for much of the world’s inequalities, poverty and hunger woes,” she said. “Food is a human right. A bare necessity, if you will.”
Sara Crowder of Utahns Against Hunger and Grace Henley of the International Rescue Committee both spoke at the banquet. The speakers depicted what hunger is like in Utah and how their organizations help.
According to an article by National Geographic, nearly 48 million people were food insecure in 2012 — two thirds of whom lived in households with a full-time working adult. For the speakers, the statistic presents a different picture than most people assume when considering a food-insecure population.
In Utah, the numbers are similar. The Deseret News reported in 2012 that 14.9 percent of people in Utah were food insecure — an increase from 14.5 percent in 2010.
Henley said part of the hunger issue stems from Utah’s refugee population. People moving to Utah from out of the country may be unfamiliar with the food offered in grocery stores here, going hungry as a result. She said Salt Lake County has 50,000 refugees — the third highest number in the country per capita. Most refugees in Salt Lake City are from Burma, Buton (an island of Indonesia) and Iraq.
Blanton said she chose both speakers to talk on the “vital components of our community,” focusing on hunger and food insecurity with refugees and youth.
“Hunger has no silver bullet,” Blanton said. “I hate that we get all uppity and stuck in our textbooks and theories up here on the ‘hill,’ when the real work is being [done] right here in our own community.”