A Place at the Table is a newly released, compelling documentary about food insecurity in the United States.
Film synopsis: "Fifty million people in the US—including one in four children—don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. In the film, directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford."
Jeanee Natov, current AmeriCorps VISTA with Rainier Valley Food Bank shares her experience viewing the film:
"Last Friday was the annual Northwest Harvest conference. I literally started out my day with a raw egg and pedaled my way to Mercer Island in the crisp air. I was hesitant to choose the movie screening, “A Place at the Table” as my first session-- maybe it was the immense amounts of coffee and endorphins from that really big hill I biked up or the fact that the relaxing atmosphere of a movie would elicit contagious yawning. I went for it anyway. The food bank staff and my fellow VISTA's joined me, as we shook and nodded our heads in agreement and disapproval, holding back what I felt like could be tears, if not a strong emotional reaction to the events unfolding in this movie.
I was fired up. A wave of ideas on how to help this issue flooded my head. More education, grad school, becoming the next Johnny Appleseed but with kale, martyring myself for the cause, protests, occupations, becoming a politician, photojournalism, personal grants, kickstarters, and more. What can I do? What can I do RIGHT NOW?
What is the shortest distance towards the biggest change? It seems this is a big question for many of us. I was lucky enough to hear Michael Pollan speak at the Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle a few nights later. A young lady, around my age, stood up in an unsure manner and asked the very same question. While his passion was indescribable, Michael did not have much for an answer, besides the idea that we are only one person, and we can only do so much. However, what you do accomplish is truly great. He also mentioned that one should be a well-rounded individual of the food system revolution. By learning the physical, political, economical, and doing your research as well as the boring paperwork, you can be a big change in this revolution. Learn as much as you can and jump into things that are uncomfortable.
For me, politics make me uncomfortable. I’m not much for confrontation, I can’t keep random statistics in my head, and I like to allow everyone to have their own point of view. Discussing politics is not a hobby of mine. But I now realize, by being fired up and feeling hopeless, it’s time to tackle politics as they relate to food issues.
So when the dreams in my head of monumental change fell back down to Earth, crashing into reality and the time commitments and hard work that would need to accompany them, I took on this personal, political challenge. I want to be informed on food politics and be able to have a concrete conversation about it with a friend. It will take me some time. Maybe next time you see me, enlighten me about your most pressing political food issue? Or your favorite news source for food politics? Or tell me about the rallies and celebrations of food in our community.
I highly recommend seeing A Place at the Table! It’s perfect for inspiring those who have lost a spark or inspiring those who are already inspired."
STATS FROM THE FILM
- 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat.
- 30% of US families are food insecure.
- Since 1980, price of produce has increased 40% meanwhile, price of processed food has decreased 40%.
- Approximately 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts. 75% of food deserts are urban.
- The US ranks worst among the IMF’s Advanced Economy countries on food insecurity.
- Nutritional deprivation in first 3 years, however short, can have lifelong impacts on cognitive ability.
- In 1980 there were 200 food banks in the county. Today there are over 40,000 food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens.
WHAT IS A FOOD DESERT & WHY DOES IT MATTER?
"Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease." - Source
Visit the USDA Food Desert Locator, and interactive map to help you explore and define food deserts close to home.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
Here are some prompting questions from A Place at the Table's Theatrical Discussion Guide. We would love to hear your thoughts via this blog's comments below!
- 85% of families who are insecure have one working adult in the household. How do people get out of poverty earning a living wage?
- According to the film, one in six Americans says they don’t always have enough to eat. Were you aware that hunger was such a big problem in the US?
- Have you or someone close to you ever struggled to put food on the table? How do/did you deal with that? Where did you turn for help?
- In the film we learn that in the ‘60s, there was huge push to end childhood hunger that resulted in free breakfast and lunch programs, senior meal programs and the expansion of food stamps. As a result, by the late ‘70s, hunger was basically eradicated. Why do you think hunger has come back as such a pressing issue in our country? Based on what you know about our country’s relationship with food security, do you think ending hunger is a possibility today?
- Marion Nestle explains that “we are spending $20 billion a year on agricultural subsidies for the wrong food.” If you had $20 billion to address food production, what would you do with it?