Academics News

MPX students learn about resiliency and food security via Hunger Banquet interactive simulation

"Collectively this is intended to build empathy and provide motivation for finding solutions to the challenges of resiliency facing Hawaiʻi, our country, and the globe," says MPX teacher Chris Falk.

Posted on February 15, 2019 by Julie Funasaki Yuen

On February 6, Mid-Pacific eXploratory (MPX) students participated in the Pacific & Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) Hunger Banquet, an interactive simulation designed to increase the understanding of all of the factors that contribute to food security, and how these factors affect people of varying socio-economic status all over the world. The students participated in the simulation as part of their MPX World Civilizations studies focusing on the concept of resiliency.

As part of the Hunger Banquet, MPX students were randomly assigned to one of three groups: high, middle, or low income, and provided with a story from real people around the world living at these income levels. Students in the high income group sat at a comfortable table with chairs. Students in the middle income group were provided with chairs, while those in the low income group sat on the floor for the duration of the exercise. During the banquet, some students changed groups due to various local or global events that affected their income level such as a drought that impacted crop yields, or the global decline in the price of coffee.

"We try to provide an empathy-building experience for the students so that they don't just know it academically or intellectually, but they have an emotion and feeling attached to learning about food security," said PAAC High School Program Director Jason Shon.

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MPX students assigned to the low income group prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for students in the middle income group as part of the Pacific & Asian Affairs Council Hunger Banquet on February 6.

During the interactive simulation, students in the high income group were served a cold-cut sandwich with vegetables, fruit, chips, and juice. Students in the middle income group ate one half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich prepared for them by students in the low income group. Students in the low income group were asked to go outside to retrieve a bag of crackers for their meal. Throughout the simulation, Shon discussed various socio-economic factors affecting students at each income level, and at one point asked the women in the low income group to sit at the back of the class to represent their global lack of access to education.

"By having students assume the role of real people from varied social, economic and cultural backgrounds, the simulation gives students an opportunity to reflect on the unequal distribution of resources," says MPX teacher Chris Falk. "The scenario clearly demonstrated the precarious nature of the middle and lower income brackets. This understanding will help students frame their work around resiliency to include ideas such as socio-economic status."

"It made me really understand what they (real people around the world) go through on a daily basis," says an MPX student who represented the low income group.

"It's really important not only to make students aware of hunger, but food security in a broader sense," says Shon. "It's not just talking about food or poverty. It really brings in politics and economics. It's affected by many different factors and hopefully we can get the students to start thinking about all the different aspects that affect food security."

Following the simulation, Shon discussed the four pillars of food security; availability, access, consumption, and sustainability, and how each of these pillars is essential for being food secure.

Falk says class discussions following the simulation reflect the students' enhanced awareness of economic class, and the privilege that it affords. "Collectively this is intended to build empathy and provide motivation for finding solutions to the challenges of resiliency facing Hawaiʻi, our country, and the globe," says Falk.