“A Place at the Table” is a powerful new documentary that focuses a hard eye on hunger in America. Much like the documentary “Bully” did when looking at the problem of bullying in American schools, “A Place at the Table” has the potential to prompt real change.
The movie’s focus is “food insecurity” – people who may or may not be hungry, but who are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. The movie states that this number is 50 million in the United States – a shame since it’s the richest nation in world.
The movie lays the blame squarely in Washington where programs that nearly eliminated the hunger problem in the 1970’s have been underfunded since the 1980’s. There are chilling political stories such as how an increase in the free lunch program was funded by money taken from the food stamp program rather than agricultural subsidies. The movie also shows statistics detailing how much money is pouring into Washington from agribusiness.
One of the most eye-opening statistics shows how a steady increase in the price of fruits and vegetables has been matched equally in the decline in price of processed foods.
The movie features commentary by long time hunger activist Jeff Bridges and Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, who has been an advocate for healthier meals in schools (and served as producer for the documentary).
The movie very effectively makes the case that only government can fix the problem that is less about hunger and more about poverty. Charity can only treat the symptom; it will take a vast change in our governmental policies to fix the problem.
Where the movie really strikes home though is with the personal stories. We meet Rosie, a child whose hunger is keeping her from being able to focus in school, as well as Tremonica, a second-grader who has major health issues being exacerbated by the fact that her mother can only afford to buy junk food.
The heart of the movie though is Barbie, a mother of two in Philadelphia. When we first meet Barbie, she has been laid off from her job and is living on government assistance. We watch her struggle to put healthy meals on the table and to live on the money she receives from assistance. By the end of the movie, Barbie has found a job. Don’t think her situation has improved though. She now makes too much money to receive any assistance, but still isn’t making a living wage. Her struggle is now harder than it was when she wasn’t working.
This movie was very moving, especially for someone who grew up in similar circumstances to some of the subjects of this documentary. This movie is a definite must see for the whole family. It will open eyes to a problem that has been ignored for too long.