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Beat Bama Hunger Banquet highlights prevalence of food insecurity in Alabama

<p>The 29th annual Beat Bama Food Drive holds banquet Sept. 27</p>

The 29th annual Beat Bama Food Drive holds banquet Sept. 27

The Beat Bama Food Drive held its Hunger Banquet on Tuesday, Sept. 27, the first time the organization has conducted the event since 2016. Born as an educational opportunity for Auburn students, the event focused on the prevalence of food insecurity on campus, in Alabama and around the world.

"Hunger feels like something that happens in other parts of the world, but in reality, there are 1-in-5 students on Auburn’s campus who are food insecure,” said Beat Bama Food Drive President Paige Hall, senior in chemical engineering.

Before entering the Mell Student Center ballroom, students were given one of three different color tickets and chaperoned to specific seats. Each color ticket represented a socio-economic class. 

Students in the lowest class were seated on blankets on the floor and fed a bowl of rice and water. Students in the middle class were given metal folding chairs and tables and ate pizza and soda. Finally, students in the highest class were seated at white tablecloth-adorned tables, ate a three-course meal, and were seated closest to the stage.

While students ate their meals, they listened to various hunger experts and leaders in the fight against hunger in Alabama. One such expert was Operations Manager of the Food Bank of East Alabama Callie Leaver.

“Most people who are food insecure don’t know they are. They really don’t,” Leaver said. "They are living their life as best as they can. They’re feeding their children. They’re taking care of their family…and when we ask people if they are food insecure, they’re saying they’re good.”

Leaver also emphasized the importance of the Beat Bama Food Drive's work as the Food Bank of East Alabama faces a challenging year.

“We have received 2,984,000 pounds of food between January and today. We have distributed 3,426,000 pounds of food,” Leaver said. “Currently, we only have 439,000 pounds of food. It’s pretty serious this time.”

Roger Thurow, senior fellow on the Global Agriculture and Food Policy on the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and Scholar in Residence at Auburn University, discussed the prevalence of food insecurity across the state.

“Some of the rural counties [in Alabama] are basically food deserts. That’s where the food is supposed to be grown and comes from,” Thurow said. “How crazy is that?”

Thurow also discussed food insecurity across the nation.

“40 million Americans are food insecure,” Thurow said. “That phrase, hungry Americans. It’s horrible. Hideous. It’s like an oxymoron.”

Finally, Thurow explained the cognitive and physical effects of hunger across a lifespan, especially when an infant is malnourished between the 1,000 days from inception to their second birthday.

“Stunted children, it's an under-five childhood measurement academically and medically," Thurow said. “But in reality, it’s a life sentence because malnourished children, stunted children, become stunted adults.”

This year, Beat Bama has set a goal to collect more than last year’s 352,389 pounds. But the organization is also focused on education efforts to raise awareness of the issue.

Clay Gibson, senior in exercise science and pre-physical therapy and vice president of community relations, said they want to "help people learn the extent of food insecurity and give them a vessel to combat that."

Beat Bama is one of many organizations on campus and across the state fighting food insecurity daily. However, the network is a coalition working together and supporting each other’s goals.

“There’s a lot of different organizations on campus that fight food insecurity," said Vice President of Administration Justin King, junior in law and justice. “But knowing they’re all combatting one issue is a good thing because there is unity through combatting food insecurity together, regardless of what organization you are part of.”

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Despite the competitive nature of Beat Bama, it remains focused on its mission.

“We are Beat Bama… but at the end of the day, whether we raise 400,000 pounds, 1 million pounds, or 1 pound, that will help somebody who’s hungry,” Hall said.

The Beat Bama Food Drive will kick off its annual competition against the University of Alabama's Beat Auburn Food Drive on Friday, Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. on the Capitol steps in Montgomery. The event is open to the public, and Gov. Kay Ivey will make the first contribution to both teams.


Ethan Flynn | News Writer

Ethan Flynn, freshman in journalism and finance, is a news writer at The Plainsman.


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