A Place at the Table: On Hunger in America

During my last weekend home over spring break, we downloaded a documentary called A Place at the Table.

interior-logoThis movie takes a look at hunger in America and the different faces of it. It followed several stories, including:

Barbie, a single mother trying to feed her two young children with welfare and food stamps while searching for a job. Once she finally gains employment, however, she loses her eligibility for government assistance and finds herself still struggling to make ends meet.

Rosie, a 5th grader in a poor Colorado town who struggles in school because she often doesn’t have enough to eat. The movie chronicled other efforts in the town to help feed the hungry population: a hot meal served by a local church and twice-weekly food bank deliveries.

Mrs. Cherry, a second grade teacher in Mississippi, diagnosed with diabetes and trying to learn healthy eating habits along with her students.

What I found so fascinating about this film is the link between hunger and obesity. It doesn’t make sense until you think about it more closely:

  • Most poor areas of this nation, both urban and rural, are considered “food desserts,” meaning the residents do not have easy access to grocery stores or fresh produce. 
  • Food banks often store nonperishable items, and these tend to be junk foods like chips, cookies and other types of simple carbohydrates.
  • In the United States, we spend billions of dollars subsidizing wheat, corn and soy production, and as a result it is more cost efficient to buy processed foods made with these products than to buy the nutritious fruits and veggies our bodies need.

Hunger in America strikes those who don’t have access to the healthy foods they need, and often they can’t afford to buy them. Something must be done.

We offer free breakfasts and lunches at schools, but the Federal Government doesn’t give schools enough money to provide students with nutritious meals.

We give food stamps that only last 2-3 weeks out of every month, leaving struggling Americans without a way to get back on their feet.

We spend billions of dollars on agriculture that is perpetuating a junk-food culture in this nation, while access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited and expensive for the average American.

We’ve left the issue of hunger in America to charities, religious organizations and food banks who do great work but cannot tackle the root of the issue with their quick-fix approaches.

We have to support those who cannot support themselves, and give them the tools they need to do so. We have to educate our youth (and adults) about healthy, inexpensive foods they can cook at home.

This film brings to light some of the issues most Americans don’t know about or see on a regular basis. I highly recommend it. If you’d like to help the cause, check out http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table or nokidhungry.org. Everyone should have access to nutritious foods.

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