“It’s about patriotism really … Do you envision [the U.S.,] a country where one in four kids are hungry?” Jeff Bridges – Actor, Founder of End Hunger Network
“A Place At The Table” is one of those documentaries that surprises in its thoroughness of detail and compelling characters. Directed and produced by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, this festival favorite tackles the subject of hunger in America. Some might have an idea that hunger issues exist in the U.S., but viewers will be shocked to learn the depths. Take these statistics for instance:
- 1 in 6 Americans (50 million) is food insecure (they don’t know where next meal is coming from).
- 1 in 4 American children are food insecure (17 million as of 2010).
- The average food stamp benefit is under $5 day.
- In 1980, there were 200 food banks in the U.S.; today, there are over 40,000.
- The relative price of fresh fruits and vegetables has gone up 40% since 1980, while the relative price of processed food has gone down by almost 40%.
- Mississippi has the highest rate of food insecurity in the U.S., and also has the highest rate of obesity.
Jacobson and Silverbush are smart in making this massive hunger issue personal. Beginning with beauty shots of farmland (the land of plenty), we visit the small, cowboy town of Collbran, Colorado and meet 5th grader Rosie. Rosie is an energetic charming girl, who, along with her family, suffers from food insecurity as well as lack of focus in her classroom. Rosie and her waitress mother live with Rosie’s grandparents in a much too small house. They rely on neighbors, friends and church for food, which includes the volunteer help of Rosie’s teacher, Leslie Nichols (who grew up hungry herself).
Next we travel to Philadelphia and meet single mother of two, Barbie Izquierdo. Barbie vows to break the vicious cycle of poverty and not have her children eat canned spaghetti, or send them to bed hungry, as she had to growing up. Here we see firsthand just how difficult it is to break the chains of poverty. After being unemployed, Barbie finds a job, but still struggles with earning enough to keep food on the table, and makes too much for government aid – another disheartening issue.
Then it’s off to Mississippi, a state that struggles with obesity and food insecurity. The film introduces Tremonica, a second grader with asthma and other health issues, her hard working mother whose wages can only pay for processed food, and Tremonica’s second grade teacher, Ms. Odessa Cherry, who also struggles with health issues being overweight. However, Ms. Cherry decides to try and eat healthier and attempts to instill some food education within her classroom.
Intertwining these heartfelt stories are hunger activists, doctors, and politicians who share some shattering facts. There’s Dr. Mariana Chilton, founder of Witness to Hunger, who takes Barbie and other mothers to Washington to discuss the effects of hunger on children. Actor/hunger activist Jeff Bridges; Dr. J. Larry Brown, a former chairman of the Physician Task Force on Hunger; Joel Berg, the head of New York City Coalition Against Hunger; and others offer sobering statistics as well as possible solutions for ending hunger.
But first, people, politicians, and agro-business need to recognize that hunger exists for many more Americans than one cares to admit. “A Place At The Table” is a rousing first step of acknowledgement.
“A Place At The Table” is 84 minutes, Rated PG, and opens March 1.
For other film reviews by Lori Huck, check out:
‘How to Survive a Plague’ Review: A Strong Portrait of AIDS Activists ACT UP
2013 Academy Award Nominations for Best Documentary