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It's a national disgrace than nearly 50 million of our American
neighbors live in homes that can't afford enough food. This compelling
film explains why we have this problem, and, most importantly, what we
can do to end it. Granted, I am biased because I fight hunger for a
living, but I do think everyone in America should see this film.
The film powerfully documents the real lives of real people struggling against hunger. Each of them defy common stereotypes of hungry people.
Many Americans believe that we can end U.S. hunger one person at a time, one donated can of food at a time. They are well-meaning. But they are wrong, as this powerful film proves. When Ronald Reagan entered office in 1981, there were only a few hundred emergency feeding programs in America, most of which were traditional soup kitchens serving mostly the people who had been historically the most hungrysingle men with substance abuse or mental illness problems. Yet, as a direct result of the economic policies and social service cuts set in motion by Reagan, the number of emergency feeding programs in America skyrocketed, and continued to do so even after he left office. There are now more than 40,000 such programs in America, and roughly two-thirds of them are food pantries, where parents and their children, the elderly, and working people obtain free groceries. Meanwhile, hunger has soared. The truth is that these agencies simply don't have anything close to the resources needed to meet the demand. The organization I manage, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, found that, in 2011, close to sixty percent of the approximately 1,100 soup kitchens and food pantries in the city were forced to ration food because they lacked resources, either reducing portion size, limiting hours of operation, or turning away hungry families. These agencies are so under-funded that nearly 50 of them were forced to close in New York City in just the last few years.
This vital film proves that the only way to truly end U.S. hunger is by advocating for fundamental change that include living wage jobs and a robust government safety net.
My wife and I downloaded this from iTunes today and were so impacted by
the film. The film follows several people of different races and
backgrounds, urban to the South to the mountains of Colorado. All are
working (as the film goes on) but none make enough to buy enough food
to be sure it will last all month. Many of them do not even qualify for
food stamps/bridge cards. The fact that the poor and hungry have little
lobbying impact in Washington compared to the gigantic agribusiness
flood of money is clearly part of the reason we see this dilemma where
the richest large nation fails miserably in keeping its working poor
feed. Please see this film if you care about this issue. Many of your
opinions may turn out to be misconceptions founded on stereotypes.
As for Marc Newman's criticism, the idea that charity organizations like food kitchens and food banks sponsored by churches (yes, those clips of devoted pastors and churches were kept in and were very impressive) could solve this problem is ludicrous. We are talking about 50 million people and 13 million children. As my pastor (who is VERY conservative) says... the problem is overwhelming. There is no way volunteer and charitable organizations can meet the demand, and for Mr. Newman to suggest it could makes me wonder if he has ever worked at trying to get food to the poor. Many of us have done so and we know how huge this problem is... far beyond the resources of the faith community. As was noted in this documentary, the government once before almost totally eliminated hunger (in the late 70's) when both Democrats and Republicans (including Ronald Reagan) made it a priority. The government could do it again if it desired.
In 2008, the world was greeted with, what has been called, one of the
most startling and frightening documentaries ever made. It was Robert
Kenner's Food, Inc., an acclaimed, highly-regarded, Academy Award
nominated account of the horribly corrupt, unsanitary practices of the
American food industry. It was a film that told a lot of facts, but
used much of its material as an effort to scare the American public,
while presenting it as a problem with no conceivable solution. Also,
its own talking point, about how America should overhaul its
heavily-preserved, pesticide-ridden food in favor of a greener, more
organic lifestyle, was one it didn't really back up. As a documentary
as a whole, it did its job (to inform me as a viewer), and I was happy
to have seen it. I just wished I had seen it when it was followed by a
filmmaker Q&A where I could've asked those involved how did they expect
the American people who were on welfare, minimum wage, and food stamps
to convert to a life predominately consisting of organic food products?
And now, we have A Place at the Table, a documentary focusing on that same group of people, which has been depressingly expanding for years on end. We open with exterior shots of various big cities in the United States, before closing in on a smaller one, Collbran, Colorado a western, rural land comprised of humble, desperate folk who are struggling to make ends meet. We see a church organization member recall how when he started serving hot meals to the public, where anyone can come and eat for free, on Wednesday night, an unprecedented eighty to one-hundred and twenty people showed up. It was a large indication that many people in Collbran were not just desperate for frivolous things, but for something they can't live without.
We then expand to other various cities, such as Jonestown, Mississippi, one of the many American towns that suffers from food insecurity. That is when the public, or its townspeople, do not know where they next meal will come from. Think long and hard about where yours will. Mine will likely be a home-cooked meal, with meat, one or two sides, a salad, and a drink. Many Americans, even children, will be lucky to get one of those things.
Another term defined in the documentary is locations ominously called "food deserts," which are areas where places that carry healthy food packing nutrition, vitamins, and necessary fulfillment don't exist for miles on end, leaving the only resources to be from local stop-and-shops that stock up on food filled with unhealthy fats and empty calories. I was raised where a salad accompanied almost every meal, seemingly by law, not by choice. Seeing young children who have likely never eaten a radish, a cucumber, lettuce, or an onion in their lives is a stunningly upsetting.
Statistics are batted off quite frequently, saying that one in two children will grow up on food stamps in the United States, 30% of people suffer from food insecurity, and currently, over fifty million people in the United States are underfed and undernourished. One of the earliest statistics seems contradictory, but will come as no surprise after a few seconds; Mississippi is the most obese state in the country and it's also the most unfed. Vegetables, again, are difficult to access in many areas, so food that stocks gas station shelves like chips, Cheetos, cupcakes, and hot dogs and sausage that spend nearly half its time on a warming tray are usually what's for dinner. It's, too, widely known that people receiving government aid and food stamps can not afford to spend much of their cash on "luxury items" such as vegetables, because it needs to get them through the month. The government has long subsidized corn, soybean, and wheat products, and has neglected to back vegetables and nourishing products with the same political commodities, we're told. "For years, we've been subsidizing the wrong foods," says Marion Nestle, a food professor.
Just a few days ago, I was talking with a friend and spoke the thought that if we lived in a perfect world, wouldn't basic necessities such as food and clothing, in their simple sense, of course, be free to the public? Wouldn't thinks like milk, bread, and corn be available on a no-cost basis to the consumer. The key words were "in a perfect world." in the world we currently inhabit, prices are sky-rocketing for the stuff we should eat and plummeting on the stuff we shouldn't. You, dear reader, reading this review, send me a picture of a sign that boasts in big, bold primary colors vegetables for an amount equivalent to the price of a two-liter bottle of soda or a bag of Lays potato chips.
A Place at the Table, again, doesn't offer many solutions to this problem, but they are quick to point out what is currently being done in the favor of stopping hunger in a country where there's more than enough healthy food to go around. Food banks, charities, and pantries, which have increased from two-hundred nationwide to a whooping 40,000 in thirty years, have been turning up to temporarily combat the problem, but a functional, long term solution is still in the works. American actor Jeff Bridges, who is responsible for founding the organization called the End Healthy Network in efforts to assist starving kids and adults, poignantly states, "if another country was doing this to our kids, we would be at war. It's just insane."
Full review at http://stevethemovieman.proboards.com
A PLACE AT THE TABLE (dir. Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush) A brilliant documentary that confronts America's perennial inability to deal with the widespread problem of hunger in our nation. Ronald Reagan slashed federal programs that were beginning to solve the issue by the late 1970's, however he cynically felt that the matter would best be solved by relying on good old fashioned Christian charity. And it didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. Millions of Americans struggle daily with 'food insecurity' (you don't know where your next meal is coming from), and it seems that our leaders are convinced that the poor have it far too easy, and are just too dependent on the largess of the American tax payer. However, the film does expose the pertinent fact that America's richest food corporations were able to continue to enjoy 100% of their lavish federal government subsidy, yet the food stamp budget was severely cut to pay for a program to end childhood hunger. So much for our so called 'Christian' policies, and the film provides yet another reason for me to continue to be a proud secular humanist.
"A Place at the Table" completely transformed my paradigm of America.
When I hear the words "hunger" and "starvation," images of ravenous,
malnourished, dying children in Africa instantly pop into my head.
However, this poignant, simple, and impacting documentary showed me
that "hunger" could be sitting right next to me in school. This
84-minute documentary details with moving austerity how and why even in
America, the world's richest nation, children are going hungry.
Featuring Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, the founder of the End Hunger Network, "A Place at the Table" follows people, all from different towns and cultural backgrounds, who are food insecure. In other words, they have no idea when and how their next meal is going to come in. 50 million people in America are food insecure. This not only stunts physical development but mental development as well. Take Rosie, a fifth-grader growing up in rural Colorado. She tries to focus in school, but hunger pains cause her to zone out or to imagine her friends and teachers as fruits. Her dream is that one day, her kids can do what they want to do and what they need to do without going hungry.
Another instance is Barbie, a single working mother with two kids. Her toddler son mumbles and has an attention-deficit symptom. This is because of the lack of food for Barbie and her family when he was born. The lasting effects of hunger in a child's first years impact a child much more deeply in the brain than the body. It's an emotional moment to see Barbie break down into tears in front of her kids, exhausted of the intense struggle to make ends meet.
The documentary grippingly touches on so many different issues. It clears up myths and breaks stereotypes. A false paradigm that America blindly looks through is that hunger doesn't exist because children struggle with obesity. However, obesity, hunger, and being food insecure go hand-in-hand. Because of a low income, families on a very limited budget shop for the cheapest foods in store chips, cookies, and ice cream. Produce is simply too expensive.
Hunger exists not because there is not enough food. Hunger exists because it isn't a big enough issue on the political agenda. The documentary is packed with real statistics and visuals that are not just standard, cold numbers, but the toll of hunger is shown in the glimpses of families scrambling to break the cycle of poverty. This film calls out to audiences to end hunger in America by alerting politicians and the government. "It's just appalling," says actor Jeff Bridges. "You know if another country was doing this to our kids we would be at war. It's just insane and it doesn't have to be that way."
"A Place at the Table" will truly open your eyes to the harsh realities of a food insecure nation. I am determined to push forward in this fight of ending hunger, and I believe our nation can rise out of the pit we've buried ourselves in. America's youth has a passion and an unbendable will to fight for what's right, and if pointed in the right direction, I believe that the American Dream of prosperity can come true. The only thing standing between now and the extinction of hunger is the hurdle of ignorance, clouding youths' and the government's minds. Share this documentary with friends and family I recommend this for all ages. If we act with urgency and boldness, perhaps one day, everyone will have a place at the table.
Reviewed by Cassandra Hsiao, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14. For more reviews, go to kidsfirst.org.
Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson's documentary "A Place at the
Table" is a film that every politician - indeed, every citizen - in
America should be forced to sit through at least once (or as many times
as it takes to get the message to effectively sink in). It makes a very
persuasive case that, contrary to what most people think, hunger is a
major problem in the United States, a nation that prides itself on
being the wealthiest in the history of the world. Not only does the
movie provide the startling statistics necessary to back that assertion
up, but explains why this is the case.
Silverbush and Jacobson build their case in a meticulous, logical fashion, beginning with the common, counterintuitive fallacy that hungry people necessarily equal thin people. The movie explains how obesity and hunger often go hand in hand, thanks to the fact that, since junk food is cheaper than healthy food to purchase, the poor often fill up on empty calories rather than the nutritious ones that would actually make them healthy. This is a result of a misguided federal policy that provides subsidies for agribusinesses (as opposed to mom-and-pop farmers), who turn their grain and corn into inexpensive processed foods. Since farmers who grow fruits and vegetables work more independently of one another, they don't have the clout necessary to receive similar government support. This leads to a vicious cycle that winds up hurting poor people in both urban and rural areas where "food deserts" arise in which residents can barely find a fresh fruit or vegetable to purchase.
The movie rightly celebrates the many charities that pick up some of the slack, but it makes the case that that is simply not enough, that an entire paradigm shift may be necessary if we ever hope to solve the problem.
Ultimately, what we discover is that hunger is merely a symptom of a much greater set of problems - which are poverty, income inequality and a political system rigged to benefit the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the indigent and disconnected. Above all, the key lies in both the public and private sectors providing a living wage for their workers.
Finally, beyond all the statistics, beyond all the comments by experts and authorities on the subject, it is the voices of the parents, who can't afford to put nutritious food on the table for their children, and of the children themselves, who often go to bed hungry or malnourished, who wind up making the greatest mark on our hearts. It is their testimonials more than anything else that will hopefully move the rest of us to action.
A must-see film.
This documentary should be seen by everyone who think that the economic
system in the US is a perfect one. It also shows how much the people
that actually generates wealth are exploited, just for the record
bankers, financiers and the stock-market don't generate wealth, its the
people that make products and services that benefit humankind that
generates wealth.This of course comes from a guy that most Americans
would consider a communist.
It warns about the future problems that the US might face if this type of problem is as prevalent as it depicts( I don't know all the facts behind this film ). If it is accurate then I hope for the people in the US will fix it instead of hope for the stock-market to fix it, it will not do that.
Excellent show. An eye opening documentary about the short falls of our ability to provide adequate nutrition for some our most needy members of society. If we all would take a close look, not just at own lives but our friends , family or even our neighbors, we may find how rampant this problem is. Our school lunch program is not perfect and it needs some help. The only way it's going to get help is by people who are willing to fight and do what needs to be done. What if we were to minimize the administration cost, the labor cost and put more money to the cost of a nutritious complete meal. Work as a collective group to end this problem. Please volunteer, make a difference in the lives of our children, give what can be given, care for the well being of the children and our future generations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rosie is a little girl who lives with her mother and grandmother in
rural Colorado, Rosie's mother works as a waitress, but her meager
salary puts her above the limit required for qualifying for food
stamps. Rosie's teacher sees a lot of Rosie in her. The teacher was so
poor as a child that she had trouble concentrating on her work as a
child. The teacher regularly goes to the food bank and delivers food to
Rosie and other kids like her.
In Jonestown Mississippi, Ree a mother of 4 has to drive 30 miles out of the way to get fresh fruit and vegetables, because Rhee lives in a "food desert", a place where fresh food and vegetables can't be delivered. Also in Jonestown an 8 year old girl named Tremonica is obese. How can kids living in poverty be obese?
Barbie, a single mom with two kids living in Philadelphia has to figure out how to feed herself and two kids on the small government stipend. But some things are looking brighter. Barbie testifies with 40 other women in Philadelphia go to congress and win a slight increase in the food stamps program, and then Barbie gets a job, but does employment necessarily mean a better life for her and her children?
A Place At The Table is a mostly effective documentary with a definite political point of view, but when it's not pouring out statistics and sounding like an ad for Jeff Bridges and his pet project on hunger, when it concentrates on poor people who have to live on food stamps, then the stories are compelling. It shows how difficult it is to actually feed children on a food stamps stipend .But it also shows how the poorest children become morbidly obese. The government actually subsidizes huge agrobusinesses, while the family farm is almost extinct. The Congress gets big campaign donations from the agrobusinesses and the agrobuissnesses make processed junk too cheaply, cheaper than fresh fruit and vegetables, and that's why poor kids are obese, because all their parents can afford is cheap, processed, junk food. The problem is that the lobbyists who give the biggest donations are the ones the politicians listen to, and poor people don't have a lobby. We have one party who has created a huge bureaucracy that the poor can't navigate, and another party who thinks government is the enemy and must be eliminated. They are both wrong, the bureaucracy must be streamlined, and the money must be sent to the people who need it the most, not the lobbyists with the biggest checkbooks.
We actually took the problem of hunger seriously in the 1970's, starting with Nixon. Yes, I said Nixon. The film points out that surprising fact. Nixon and Carter did a lot to eliminate hunger in America, but we haven't taken the problem seriously since. No one should ever be hungry in America, the faith community has done heroic work in feeding the hungry, the film also stresses this point, but people of faith can't do it alone. They need help from a fully functional cohesive government to set standards, and fully fund programs so those standards are met. But the American government is so dysfunctional right now, it cannot solve the simplest problem.
For reviews that leave you hungry for more, visit my blog, reviewswithatude.wordpress.com
After watching this documentary, all I can say is, some Americans are
downright HYPOCRITES. By pushing their pretensions to help the world,
with setup movies and all the Cr*** that we see
The most chocking part is that, we can never see those faces in world vision add! But they exist.
Now, Africa does not look so bad after all 50millions in one country? That almost the same for Africa (the continent) with over 50 something countries in it. Instead of American government to admit and call it what it is starvation, like always they plays with words "food insecurity" hum How is it possible to let my own family starve and give food to my neighbour's?
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