Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

What? Diplomats participated in a Hunger Banquet?

Students aren't the only ones organizing Hunger Banquets.  Recently, a group of diplomats in Rome participated in a Hunger Banquet.  How cool!

Xmas drinks with a twist of bitter for Rome diplomats

By: Denis Barnett

Source:  Agence France Presse

December 14, 2005 Wednesday 12:09 PM GMT

With festive season drinks and receptions in full swing across the diplomatic circuit, three United States ambassadors came together in Rome to host a dinner with a difference for unsuspecting fellow diplomats -- mainly consisting of rice and water.

"Our dinner tonight will be a bit unusual," said Tony Hall, US ambassador to the UN food agencies in Rome, introducing a "Hunger Banquet" on Tuesday designed to dramatise the problem of the world's 850 million hungry people for cocktail swilling diplomats.

With a gesture likely to turn the most practised of diplomatic smiles to ice, Hall invited the majority of those gathered -- representing 60 percent of the world's population who struggle to meet their daily food needs -- to help themselves to boiled rice and water from plastic cups.

With perfect Italian table manners, the straight-faced ambassador even said: "Buon Appetito."

One woman was told to get her water from a pitcher in the back garden, because the vast majority of the world's population do not have running water.


Bemused envoys had been handed cards randomly designating one of three categories of wealth, based on World Bank statistics. The anticipated gourmet meal awaited only those who plucked the high-income bracket cards. Others had to forage for rice and, if they were lucky, beans.

"Inside that door, the rich 15 percent of the world's population are being served a gourmet meal by white gloved waiters," said Hall, gesturing to one of the rooms in state ambassador Ronald Spogli's sumptuous official residence, Villa Taverna.

"They don't want to meet us. They don't want to even see us," he said.

Spogli emerged from one of the doors, hamming it up for crowd: "Can you people keep it quiet out here, we're trying to eat!"

The point made, the rice was quickly discarded as champagne corks popped and waiters circulated with more traditional fare for the hungry guests.

"It's fair to say that people were surprised," said US embassy spokeswoman Carla Benini of the well-heeled crowd.

"I hope we didn't depress people. It was meant to raise awareness of the hungry and one of the best times of the year to do that is during the holiday season," she told AFP.

"Where in the world are three ambassadors hosting an event to raise hunger awareness by giving their guests rice and beans?" she asked.

Spogli, Hall and Washington's ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney borrowed the idea from Oxfam's so-called "Hunger Banquet" used in many university campuses to sensitize people about the problem of distributing the world's food resources.

"We think it's an effective way of showing how different people in our world really live," said the 63-year-old Hall.

Political commentator James Walston, of the American university in Rome, said he did not believe "hardened diplomats and journalists" would have been very touched by the stunt.

"It's not a bad way of showing that the US is seen to be concerned about hunger, even if they don't increase their donations to more proportionate levels."

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