More than 250 teenagers from across Long Island learned to be thankful for their homes and the food they can eat while attending the first Hunger Banquet at the Parish Center at St. Agnes on Oct. 20.
The goal of the program was dedicated to bridging the understanding between those “who have a lot, those who have a little and those who have none,” said Mary Dennis, Youth Minister for Curé of Ars based in Merrick. The idea for Hunger Banquet was drawn from Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization that works to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.
According to Dennis, One of the main events of the night was the dinner, where the teenagers, with no previous knowledge, were split up randomly into three groups that represented poor, middle and high incomes.
Each teenager received a description of someone who would fit into that category of living and receive food according to his or her status; a pasta dinner for those in the high income group, rice and beans for those in the middle income group and only rice for those in the lowest bracket.
Changes occurred in status as someone would fictionally lose a job or a parent, and discussion between the teens was encouraged.
At another point in the evening, the teens made sandwiches, wrote cards and put together bags of cookies, chips and toiletries that were then brought into the city and distributed during a “midnight run.”
According to Marianne Sheridan, the coordinator of youth, campus ministry and young adults for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the midnight run consisted of Hofstra students from the Catholic Campus Ministry taking the food and clothing collected by the diocese, as well as the cards, sandwiches and toiletries made by the teenagers, into Manhattan and distributing them to the city’s homeless.
Two homeless men were brought to the parish center to “bring real faces and life to the plight of the homeless and poor,” Sheridan said.
“Our intention is to bridge the ‘gap’ between the homeless and those ‘with homes,’” Sheridan added. “To see that there really isn’t much difference — except ‘life situations’ and circumstances that are sometimes beyond our control.”
For Drew Beaubian, 17, of Malverne, the hunger banquet drove home the situation of the homeless.
“It was really eye opening,” she said. “We’re all so caught up in our own world and we sometimes think our situation is the worst, and it really isn’t.”
Beaubian said that for her Advanced Placement Government project at school, she would be required to write a letter to someone in charge about a relevant issue and that her night at the hunger banquet persuaded her to write about the plight of the homeless.
Beaubian, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes youth ministry, said that she was split into the lowest income bracket when food was given out.
“It’s really sad,” Beaubian explained. “I get more food than that every day, and to think that for some people, that’s their only food — it’s just really sad.”