Actor Jeff Bridges comments, “If any other nation in the world treated their kids this way, we’d be at war.” He refers to hunger in America, an issue being brought to light by a new film called A Place at the Table.
Hunger is not something normally associated with America, to the contrary, we hear and read studies about obesity epidemics and how Americans are getting fatter, especially our children. We see images of overweight kids, with children’s cartoons beginning to reflect their changing stature, yet hunger affects every single county in our nation, and it demands to be addressed.
In A Place at the Table, a new film by directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, we’re invited to examine the lives of three separate individuals struggling with food insecurity.
A single mother trying to create a better life for her children, a fifth grader from Colorado who relies on friends and neighbors to feed her while she suffers with attention issues at school because she’s hungry, and a second grader with health issues, asthma, made worse by the poor quality of her inexpensive diet.
Up to 50 million Americans rely on charity programs currently to feed themselves and their families, and many or most of those charity programs can only afford to offer cheap, fast and processed food. The families who are highlighted in this film, and families throughout the US are eating within a limited budget and fill up on fast, cheap and processed foods, resulting in a lack of nutrition and leading to emotional, intellectual and physical issues. The film chronicles the history of this epidemic, beginning with America’s hunger issue in the late 1960’s and the attention then given to it by a caring public.
The 1970’s in American gave us a school breakfast program, food stamps and an expanded food program, and by the late 1970’s, there was very little hunger left. The 1980’s ushered in increased defense spending, tax cuts and the myth that, according to the film, charity programs could pick up the slack and replace government programs with the kindness of strangers.
Tom Colicchio, celebrity chef and contributor to A Place a the Table, says that America is producing more food than ever before, but our underprivileged citizens are undernourished, many existing on food stamps amounting to $3.00 a day.
The film shows a woman with a charity food bank making a delivery to a family, knowing that the food she’s taking is nutritionally empty. It breaks her heart, but she justifies that this will at least fill the empty belly, the void left from hunger. One of the items she brings is a huge grocery store cake, complete with colored sugar frosting. The recipients appear to be overweight, maybe even obese, and they’re hungry. They thank her, as the young overweight daughter appears thrilled to have cake to eat for breakfast each day that week.
The reality is that one out of six Americans face hunger today, and that this generation of kids will be the first to live sicker and die younger than their parents. There is not a shortage of food in our country, but there is a glut of cheap, unhealthy food and huge swaths of food deserts where healthy food is either unavailable or too expensive.
Our system is broken, and the future of our country is at stake. The implications of poor nutrition and hunger are social, economic and cultural, and it affects us all.