Poverty awareness comes to front burner at GCU

February 10, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau


Jennifer Jones

It’s one thing to voice concern that some of the world’s citizens live on a dollar a day. It’s another to understand what poverty means and to help eradicate it.

An interdisciplinary project at Grand Canyon University on Thursday evening is the first step to raising that awareness among students. The event, Social Structures of Poverty: Hunger Banquet, at 6 p.m. in the north dining hall of the Student Union, is open to all students. The first 125 to RSVP in the Student Affairs Office on the north side of Prescott Hall will be admitted.

“We want to start the dialogue, bring poverty issues to the forefront, and try to encourage changes in behavior and in how we interact,” said Jennifer Jones, a psychology faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences who is spearheading the dinner with Assistant Dean Maria Quimba of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions.

“You can talk about people who live on $10 a day, and we might say, ‘They look fine, they seem happy,’’’ Jones said, “but we don’t have that internalization of what it’s really like.”

The hunger banquet concept was developed by Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 90 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty and fights for social justice, according to its website.

“Oxfam is an amazing organization,” Jones said. “They don’t just come in and give food to the people who need it, they work on sustainability, helping with fertilizers, water issues, crop rotations, so that people don’t have to just wait until the next food drop.”

According to Oxfam, one in seven people in the world goes to bed hungry every night, not because there isn’t enough food, but because of deep imbalances in access to resources such as fertile land and water. As of December, 842 million people worldwide suffered from chronic hunger; malnutrition is the leading cause of child mortality, accounting for one-third of all deaths of children under age 5.

Jones attended a hunger banquet while a freshman at the University of Portland in Oregon. “It was extremely impactful,” she said. “You hear about poverty, but being part of this made it seem so real. It opens your eyes to the periphery of poverty – the underdeveloped areas, the caste systems, the corrugated shacks, the running sewers – both home and abroad, and you begin to recognize it.”

Quoting from Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” Jones said the hunger banquet also calls to mind a recent message from Pope Francis that followers “abandon ostentatious material goods in favor or pursuing a simpler life and helping the needy.”

Following Thursday’s meal and program, the Office of Student Affairs will host sessions with students on campus. Although she was reluctant to publicize details to preserve the impact, Jones said, “It promises to be life changing.”

Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or  [email protected].

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