Dinner came with a lesson in world hunger Wednesday at a fundraising event at Viterbo University.
Luck of the draw determined whether diners noshed on spring greens and chicken breast, or picked at rice and yellowish water at the Hunger Banquet, co-hosted by the university and the Franciscan Spirituality Center.
The banquet raised money for charities fighting world hunger and illustrated how poverty can be the result of circumstance, said Audrey Quanrud, the center’s associate director and program coordinator.
“It’s sheer luck some times,” Quanrud said.
Chelsea Krayecki, 19, was disappointed when she showed up and realized she would join most of the banquet attendees cast as low-income diners.
More than 100 attending the dinner were divided into three groups. About 15 percent were seated at a high-income table, about 25 percent were middle class, and the rest were low-income.
Krayecki, a student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, was shocked when she heard what was on the menu.
“I didn’t expect it was going to be this bad,” Krayecki said.
UW-L student Tatum Sterba, 20, sat on the floor with Krayecki. Both waited for food as servers brought crème brulee to the high-income group.
“I’m actually a little hungry,” Sterba said.
Some diners ate in luxury, served by wait staff with water pitchers, coffee and rolls within reach. Others waited in a long line for a scoop of rice and sat on the floor to eat.
“As you live on less, you’re going to have to let go of some things,” Quanrud said.
For some high-income diners, the differences were too much to bear.
Jeni Tuschner, 21, grabbed her dessert and salad and brought them over to the low-income crowd.
The Viterbo student wanted to show she cared.
“It’s kind of going to the common good,” Tuschner said. “It feels good.”
Money raised from the banquet will go to the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse and other groups fighting hunger. Quanrud hopes the event inspires people to reach out to others who are less fortunate.
“It’s one human family,” she said.