Fire dancers, Hindu dancers, a social innovation contest and the founder of a fair-trade farming organization promise to inspire attendees to impact the world through social change at this year’s Hunger Banquet. This will be the 26th year the Hunger Banquet has been held on BYU campus, and this time the Students for International Development club and BYU’s Ballard Center are teaming up to help spread awareness of socially innovative solutions to poverty.
Laura Boyer, a junior majoring in political science and member of the SID club, is excited for the opportunity she has had to help plan and be involved with this year’s banquet.
“It’s a really good opportunity for people to see the newest solutions that people are coming up with to combat poverty,” Boyer said. “It also provides an opportunity for people to get a different perspective about the world and be interested in using their own skills to help developing countries and people in their own community. And it’s super fun and the money is going towards a good cause.”
Naomi Dorsey, president of the Students for International Development club and a senior majoring in international relations, is excited for the many planned events surrounding the Hunger Banquet. She said this year is different from previous Hunger Banquets because the club is partnering with the Ballard Center to host a competition based on social innovation a week before the banquet occurs.
She said teams of students from around campus will be given a problem that is being faced by a fair-trade farming organization, and then the teams will have five days to come up with a solution. The winners of the competition will get $3,000 toward an organization they want to help or toward their own studies.
Dorsey said this year’s speaker at the event, Patrick Struebi, has had a very influential impact in the field of social innovation and combating poverty. Struebi is a Yale scholar and he founded Fairtrasa, an organization which educates farmers about fair trade practices and about selling their products for a fair price. Dorsey describes him as “super accomplished” and thinks he will be an inspirational speaker for all who attend the banquet.
There will be a non-governmental organization fair before the banquet where anyone (including those without tickets for the actual banquet) can browse booths set up by various organizations and charities dedicated to helping eradicate poverty.
Boyer said the fair will be a great opportunity for attendees to learn about various organizations and network with them to find out what programs they may want to become involved in. Organizations dealing with women empowerment, health, education, infrastructure and school construction will be showcased in this year’s fair.
This is the third time Dalin Earls, a junior majoring in advertising, has been involved with BYU’s Hunger Banquet. He said he feels any person who comes to college likely wants to have a bigger impact on the world in some way, but they often don’t know how.
“The Hunger Banquet was a great way for me to realize there’s so many cool ways to get involved out there, and this year’s banquet’s theme of innovation encourages students to just jump in and find ways to help,” Earls said. “We’re hoping to inspire students to find their own way to get involved. And that’s how we’ll help people in need — by taking a first step.”
This year’s banquet will follow the same format as previous years’ formats, with guests in random seating arrangements and food served according to representations of high-, middle- and low-income areas of the world, Dorsey said.
Dorsey hopes students will see the Hunger Banquet as a chance to find the perfect opportunity to get involved in service and stop the negative effects of poverty.
“We want people to feel inspired and empowered and not feel they have the excuse that their major or minor doesn’t relate to social change or they don’t want to travel, so they can’t get involved. They can use these same principles in their community,” Dorsey said. “Poverty is not a hopeless situation, everyone who wants to can contribute.”
Earls said the Hunger Banquet should leave attendees feeling uplifted and positive about ways they can help stop the spread of poverty.
“A lot of times people feel guilty about poverty, but we hope that people leave feeling inspired to use those traits they already have so they can put them to good use,” Earls said “It is the difference between feeling ‘I have to do good,’ and ‘I get to do good.”
This year’s Hunger Banquet will be held on Feb. 26 in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. The NGO fair will be open for the general public to browse from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and then attendees with tickets will attend the Hunger Banquet from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., where the entertainment and speech will also be performed.
Tickets for the Hunger Banquet cost $8.