A Place at the Table

May 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )


Last night, Scott and I joined members of our community for a documentary screening at the food pantry where I volunteer.  The pantry itself is run out of the basement of a church and the movie was held in the church itself.  Besides it being a little surreal for this recovering Catholic to be eating popcorn and drinking soda while sitting in a pew before the altar, the event went really well.  The documentary was absolutely eye-opening and something everyone should see.

A Place at the Table tells the stories of three different Americans who deal with food insecurity and hunger on a daily basis.  One of the stories follows a young woman who is a single mother raising two children in Philadelphia.  The other shows a young girl in Mississippi whose heavy weight causes health problems and the other highlights a different young girl in Colorado whose family struggles to fill their plates.  The whole documentary describes how over 40 million people in America don’t have enough to eat and how much of what is being eaten can’t exactly be considered nutritious.  It shows how food deserts impact communities, because these small towns are too far off the beaten trail for produce trucks to make deliveries.  Families having to drive 30-40 minutes each way for a vegetable other than a banana isn’t unheard of and we are given the depressing fact that nearly 1 of every 2 children in the country will use food assistance at some point in their childhoods.  It’s a stark look at what life is like for far too many people and it’s a wake up call to those of us who have it better.

Food for thought

There are many factors that go into this and some of it doesn’t appear to make much sense.  For instance, how can Mississippi be both the state that has the highest amount of food insecurity yet also be the most overweight?  Well, if you look at what people are eating, you’ll find your answer.  As you can see, it’s much cheaper to buy 3,000 calories worth of soda and chips than it is to buy that fill of fruits and vegetables, and the poverty that many in the nation are facing makes it damn near impossible for them to afford healthy foods.  They showed footage from Top Chef, where the contestants were asked to make a lunch for schoolchildren using the amount of money that schools typically receive from the government.  In one meal, over two pounds of sugar was used because it was the cheapest thing to cook with – fruits were out of the question because they were too expensive.  Government subsidies, education, food stamps (now known as SNAP) eligibility requirements…there are many reasons that we have this current situation on our hands.  This documentary shows how all of these things work together to create a perfect storm that is causing us to raise a generation that will be sicker and live a shorter lifespan than their parents – which is the first time in generations that this is the case.

The whole issue is overwhelming and it’s hard to know how to help.  I’ve been volunteering with the pantry for almost four years and we’ve seen the need for supplemental food sources increase, not decrease.  The best thing I can think to do is to make others aware that there are people – who could be living down the street or in the apartment next door – who are starving.  In America.  It’s insane to think about and Jeff Bridges (who, besides being the namesake for our cat The Dude, founded the End Hunger Network in 1984 and supported the filming of this documentary) says that if another country were doing this to our children, we’d be at war.  Instead, we’re in denial.  If you want to do something, you can start by watching this documentary (available through Netflix).  It’s definitely worth your time.

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