One hundred teens filled Oberlin High’s gymnasium for a November hunger banquet highlighting the needs of residents throughout the U.S.
Members of the OHS Interact Club hosted the event to rause awareness of food insecurity and homelessness.
More than 2.2 billion people live in poverty while about 795 million people suffer from chronic hunger, club members said. A child dies from malnutrition or a preventable disease every 11 and a half seconds — roughly 8,000 children a day.
A report released this fall by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service stated 14 percent or 17.4 million U.S. households did not know from day to day where the next meal would come from in 2014.
That number increased from 16 percent of Ohio residents living in food insecure households in 2013 to 16.9 percent last year, the report said.
That 16.9 percent represents nearly 4.8 million Ohio households.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks says Ohio ranks sixth nationally for the highest rate of food insecurity behind Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Texas.
“More of our families than ever before are struggling to afford food as the economic recovery fails to reach everyone in our state,” said OAF executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt. “Food insecurity in Ohio has not only surpassed our fellow Midwestern states but has skyrocketed compared to food insecurity nationally.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.8 percent of Oberlin residents were below the poverty level between 2009 and 2013. In Lorain County, the number fell at 14.6 percent.
Students were sorted as they entered the gym into high-income, middle-income, and low-income groups.
High-income kids sat a table covered in a cloth and received a nutritious meal served with faux wine.
The middle-income group received paper plates and went through a buffet-style line to get their food and water. These students sat in chairs without a table.
Low-income teens sat on the floor to eat, with men served first. Interact Club members stood in the middle of the low-income group, scooping white rice into outstretched bare hands.
The club wanted to show classmates how people around the nation are suffering and how little they have.
Some in the high-income group felt moved to give their dinner rolls, salad, and potatoes to students sitting in the low-income group.
“Lack of access to adequate food has serious consequences, impacting educational achievement, health outcomes, and worker productivity,” Hamler-Fugitt said.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Oberlin News-Tribune Oberlin Community Services executive director Cindy Andrews talk about how Ohio is ranked third in the nation for the highest rate of food insecurity.