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Kicking off National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, Volunteer UCF looked to target student hunger Monday night at its 22nd annual Hunger Banquet.

The banquet was held in the Student Union's Pegasus Ballroom and had a special focus on student hunger as it kicked off a series of events every night all week commemorating the National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

“Often we neglect to realize that hunger doesn’t have a stereotypical look. It’s not always the begging man on the street with the ripped clothes and the dirty hair,” said VUCF hunger and homelessness director Arianne Abreu. “It can be our friends and family and we don’t even know. It can be boy that we are working on a group project with or girl that’s on our intramural basketball team. Hunger is a global issue that has a local impact.”

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During the banquet, participants were randomly divided among three socio-economic classes, each with their own seating and meals. The smallest group of people were placed in the highest class — with a three-course meal, waiting staff, and full dining setting — while the largest pool of people, who were placed in the lowest class, sat among cardboard and other trash with a meal of rice and water.

The event serves as a metaphor for the distribution of food and resources among people. Of the 200 to 250 attendees, eight were randomly chosen to move up or down to different classes, each shift met with either cheers or murmurs for the few that moved.

Charles Prater, a junior computer science and digital production major, was placed in the lower-class section and looked at his wealthy neighbors with envy.

“I go over there and I window shop at the little line they have out there and I think, ‘Dang, look at those people, getting served, getting tea, salads and cuisines. I’m just over here humbly eating my rice," Prater said. "It really makes you see the perspective of the hungry. It makes you really want to make a difference, honestly."

Political science sophomore Jessica Momorie came with the curiosity of which class she’d be assigned to. She looked positively at her middle-class meal of sandwiches and pie, but like many in the audience took pause at the gendered aspect of food service, where the women in the lower and middle classes had to wait until after the men were served to get their own plates. Overall, she said she saw the power in what VUCF was showing that night.

“It’s really important, events like this that engage people and make them kind of get a glimpse at what people go through,” Momorie said.

During the open-questions section, when audience members were allowed to speak their minds, biomedical sciences Ph.D. student Swaran Nandini called upon fellow students to fight against hunger, an issue she saw in her native country of India.

“All this is great, but what we learn from here is what really matters, and I really request that all of you just give, even if it’s little, to anybody who needs it. Maybe if we change and act as a big community and a big family, we can make change as Knights,” Nandini said.

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Christopher Bobo is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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