OGDEN — It was a little disheartening for Dylan Hansel when he was served bread and water for dinner Thursday night, especially when there were others around him eating pizza and dining on rosemary chicken.
It was also an eye-opening experience.
“I’m lucky I got bread and water,” Hansel said. “Some people don’t even get that.”
Hansel was at the Weber State University’s second annual Hunger Banquet Food Drive. The event, sponsored by the Community Involvement Center, was held to bring more awareness to the problem of world, national and local hunger.
About 150 people were divided into three groups before being served dinner. One group, classified as lower class, ate on the floor and were given a meal of bread and water. The middle class group sat at a table and had pizza, and the upper class group had a hot meal of rosemary chicken, potatoes, vegetables and juice.
“We thought this would be a good way to try and put things into perspective,” said Nicholas Husted, community liaison and faculty member at WSU. “The event was free, but we asked people to bring one can or package of food if they preregistered. If they showed up at the door, we asked them to bring five cans or packages.”
About an hour into the banquet, more than 150 pounds of food had been donated. The food, Husted said, will go to Catholic Community Services and students in need at the university.
“I’m not hungry tonight. Not even a little bit,” said Lt. Peter Pemberton, coordinator at the Salvation Army in Ogden. “The sad thing, though, is that there are many people who are very hungry right now, even in our own community.”
Pemberton, who along with his wife, Jan, spoke about homelessness and hunger, said it’s estimated that as many as 3.5 million people in the United States experience homelessness.
“What does that have to do with hunger?” he said. “For people finding themselves in a homeless situation, hunger is a very real issue.”
Catholic Community Services executive director Marci Valdez said hunger exists everywhere in Utah and it doesn’t matter if you live in an urban, suburban or rural setting. Hunger has no boundaries.
“Utah is ranked fourth in the nation for food insecurity,” she said. “One in seven children in Utah are unsure where their next meal is coming from, and about 400,000 Utahn’s risk missing one meal every day.”
Valdez said Catholic Community Services helps, on average, 6,411 individuals each month. Thirty-nine percent are younger than 18, and 9 percent are older than 65. She said she expects the numbers to increase by the end of this year.
“There is enough food in the United States that no one should go without,” Valdez said. “Forty percent of food that is produced goes uneaten, and $165 billion worth of food is thrown away each year. On average, each person wastes 20 pounds of food each month.”
Mariah Moore, who attended the banquet with her family, said listening to the statistics made her want to cry.
“I feel so bad. There’s got to be more ways we can help,” she said.
Much can be done to combat the problem, Valdez and Pemberton said.
“The first thing we do in being aware of the need is to become more responsible in our own lives by minimizing the amount of food we waste,” Pemberton said.
“The second thing we can do is get involved in community hunger-relief efforts. You can do so by donating to a local pantry or soup kitchen. You can volunteer over time at these places.
“You can oversee a food drive in your community, your church, your school or your business.
“The opportunities are endless.”