Hungry? I doubt it.

>> Friday, 26 November 2010

I was a guest at Boy #1's school assembly this morning. This sort of thing is always going to be impressive for parents of children who apparently do 'nothing' at school all day, who 'didn't learn anything', and who didn't play 'with anyone, Mama...' Today's assembly was no different. My older son, the one who doesn't learn anything, took part in a short play in which the only language spoken was Russian. But still - he doesn't actually learn anything at school, obviously.

The assembly however was not all about Boy #1 (amazingly). Each year that attended made a short presentation, sang a song, or did a play, and what really impressed me was a presentation the 5th graders did on their recent Hunger Banquet. Not having children of the right age (in this school that's 10 and 11 years old), I hadn't come across the concept of a Hunger Banquet before, and I have to say that I thought it was an amazing way to let our children - the children of the lands of plenty - understand some of the imbalance in the world.

It may be that this is an established tradition in your children's school, in which case I apologise for telling you things you already know, but if you haven't heard of such a thing, here is how a Hunger Banquet works...

The children are told not to bring any snacks or packed lunch into school with them on the chosen day. They eat nothing before lunchtime, at which point they are randomly given a ticket, which will be one of 3 colours. At our school, they were blue, white and red (Russian national flag colours, appropriately). 15% of the total tickets were blue, 35% were red, and 50% were white. The children then went to the relevantly coloured food counter; here's what happened next.

  • The 15% with blue tickets were given chicken wings, fries, nachos and ice cream for their lunch. They were also allowed to go up for seconds.
  • The 35% with red tickets were given a smaller serving, of rice and vegetables for their lunch, and no seconds.
  • The 50% with white tickets were given a very small cup of water and a small cup of rice each, and of course, no seconds. If they wanted more water, they had to leave the dining hall and walk down the corridor with their small cup, which they could refill once.

I don't know about you, but this seems to me a very powerful way of communicating to tweenagers the imbalances of food supply in our world today - and the presentation that some of them subsequently made to the rest of the school underscored that...

Click here if you're interested in finding out more about hosting a Hunger Banquet. (Oh, and no children were harmed in the presentation of this concept; the kids without the blue tickets were given a snack once they got back to their classrooms...)


Metropolitan Mum 26 November 2010 at 12:59  

I hope the once with the white tickets were given the snack, but apart from that it sounds like an excellent idea. Never heard of it before.

Muddling Along Mummy 26 November 2010 at 13:57  

That is a BRILLIANT concept, what a great way of explaining the differences

nappy valley girl 26 November 2010 at 14:04  

What a good idea.

When I was at boarding school, I remember we had a 'famine' day once a term where we only had rice and sauce for lunch and supper. It was an idea along the same lines. (Although I do remember thinking that this actually tasted quite good compared to the normal school food.......)

Mwa 26 November 2010 at 20:12  

That is a very good idea. I may steal that once I go back into teaching.

Tattie Weasle 26 November 2010 at 23:01  

I think it an excellent idea but I don't think Bog Boy would apprecaiet it...he finds it hard enough when I don't offer pudding!

Rachel M. 27 November 2010 at 01:57  

That's a great post Potty and very timely written considering our Thanksgiving day was yesterday, a day where we eat like pigs.

Expat mum 27 November 2010 at 02:26  

Obviously an excellent idea and a powerful message, however, at our school there would be so many kids with "health issues" it would cause uproar.
Someone would be worried about their child's blood sugar level plummeting, another would be concerned that the lack of food would mean the child wasn't performing at his best, and the third would be worried that the child would faint and crack her head open on the playground.

Potty Mummy 27 November 2010 at 09:27  

MM, yes, they were...

MAM, I thought so too.

NVG, ah yes, school lunches from our childhood - what a treat they were.

Mwa, please feel free! (That's why I blogged about it, after all)

TW, yes, I don't think it would work with children younger than 10, that's true.

Rachel, it wasn't intended in that spirit, honestly - but since you mention it...

EPM, not sure how they handled that (living where we do there are lots of over-protective mums here too), but it seemed to work. Maybe because they got the kids on-side, I don't know...

Jo Beaufoix 29 November 2010 at 11:16  

Wow that's brilliant. I wonder how the kids with the blue tickets felt having the others watch them eat?

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