EPWORTH, Iowa -- Jaydee Curtis contemplated the dire repercussions of poverty Monday morning.

The Western Dubuque High School sophomore drew her lot and found out she was a middle-class person. She ate half of a frosted graham cracker during a poverty simulation.

"Today, we saw it up close, and we realized how much poverty there is in the world," Curtis said.

The Western Dubuque Hunger Banquet was a student-led school assembly meant to increase hunger awareness globally and locally.

Students and teachers received cards before the assembly to determine their class.

The 50 percent with a low-class card sat on the floor, and each only received one-fourth of a graham cracker. Thirty percent received a "middle-class" card and received half of a frosted graham cracker apiece while sitting on the bleachers. The remaining 20 percent with high-class cards ate ice cream sundaes at tables.

Senior Alyssa Dougherty helped organize WD's first schoolwide hunger banquet to spread awareness of hunger and poverty issues.

"We wanted to bring it to all students," she said.

More than 900 students participated. Members of the National Honor Society and student council helped Dougherty organize the activity.

Modeled off of Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, a global organization, the simulation kicked off the National Honor Society's annual food drive.

This year's goal is to raise 2,500 pounds of food for Dubuque Rescue Mission. Last year, less than 1,500 pounds was donated.

Dougherty said she hoped students would be more willing to donate nonperishable food items if they better understood poverty.

Breanna Lukes, an English teacher, said she was proud of Dougherty's determination to organize such an event.

Students in the low- or middle-class sections of the gymnasium were finished with their "meals" long before some of the high class had even received their ice cream sundaes.

Sophomore Samantha O'Dell was one of the students who ended up in the "high class." Guilt overwhelmed her as she received a treat.

"I felt bad walking by my friends who were middle class or low class," she said.

Junior Drew DeSollar was slightly upset with his low-class card.

"I was a little sad because I wanted ice cream," he said.

The activity, he added, put poverty into perspective.

Dougherty decided to bring a hunger banquet to Western Dubuque after she attended the Global Youth Institute last fall in Des Moines.

The assembly also included videos, stories of poverty and speakers from Dubuque Rescue Mission.

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