In their social studies class, high school students read Ron Suskind’s A Hope in the Unseen. This book, which follows an impoverished teenager through high school and into college, generated a lot of class discussion about race, poverty and social justice. The students were especially moved by the book’s depiction of hunger, and they decided to do a service-learning project that would raise community awareness about hunger, inspire activism, and support local programs combating hunger.
In addition to reading the Suskind book, the students used the Internet, classroom textbooks and related materials to learn more about local and global issues related to hunger, and about our nation’s historical and current politics and policies regarding hunger. The students also invited in guest speakers from area agencies and programs addressing issues of hunger and poverty in the community.
The students then brainstormed ways to address the problems of local and global hunger, ultimately deciding to host an Oxfam Hunger Banquet (which is designed to simulate wealth and poverty in the world). Participants at the Banquet receive an “identity” that puts them into one of three groups: the first group (about 15 percent of the total participants) eats a gourmet meal on fine china; the second group (about 30 percent) eats pasta at cafeteria style tables; and the third (about 55 percent) eats brown rice and sits on the floor. The students advertised the Banquet and asked for donations at the door, giving the collected money to a local food bank. Using information from their research, the students presented information on local and global hunger to all the Banquet participants.
In addition to the Banquet, the students also raised awareness about hunger by making and distributing posters and buttons, talking to local representatives, and appearing on the local cable station.