“A Place at the Table” is an eye-opening documentary from Participant Media, the same people who brought you “Lincoln,” “Food, Inc.” and “Inconvenient Truth.” It’s a film full of alarming stats: 1 out of 2 U.S. kids will be on food assistance, 49 million Americans are going hungry, 1 in 5 children don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Hunger is costing our economy $167 billion dollars per year on preventable healthcare and other issues linked to nutritional deficits, and food stamps only offer a measly $3 per day.
The good news is there’s a solution. “Food insecurity,” not knowing when you’ll have food, is solvable and no, this flick is not trying to guilt you into making donations. “A Place at the Table” educates you.
Examiner Dorri Olds sat down this week with the filmmakers: Actor and hunger advocate Jeff Bridges; Co-directors and producers Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson; producer, chef and author of three cookbooks Tom Colicchio; and Billy Shore, the founder and CEO of No Kid Hungry.
Dorri Olds: How bad is the problem of hunger in America?
Jeff Bridges: It’s an embarrassing thing for our country to acknowledge that 1 in 5 kids don’t have enough food. Not only embarrassing for our government but also for the people who are struggling with hunger. There’s a social stigma for a kid in school to be labeled as so poor they need free food. Most kids would rather stay hungry than admit to being that poor and these malnourished kids will have health problems throughout their lives.
Kristi Jacobson: We can’t always see hunger. We don’t know who is struggling; there could be someone on the subway, or the bus, or in your neighborhood. Like the young girl Rosie in the film, hunger does not look like what we were conditioned to believe.
Jeff, when did the issue of solving the hunger crisis become your mission?
Bridges: I got involved about 30 years ago. Initially it was about ending world hunger. I’d become aware of the enormous problem and learned that it was solvable. It wasn’t a matter of not having enough food, or enough money, or enough know how. It was a matter of creating the political will.
When I learned the facts about hunger I wanted to do more than just make a gesture, like giving a hundred bucks to scratch the guilt itch, instead I helped found the organization End Hunger Network. Then, about 20 years ago, when ketchup was considered a vegetable [Laughs], I shifted my attention from world hunger to the problem here in the U.S.
Three years ago I got hooked up with Billy [Shore] and Share Our Strength and a great campaign called No Kid Hungry. We go from state to state working with governors and mayors making sure that the kids in their state have access to a billion dollars of government funding that is available.
“A Place at the Table” is a wonderful tool to teach people what condition our country is in and what they can do to help. The movie is a start and we also knew we needed to make it as easy as possible for people to get the message out to the politicians so we created a Take Action campaign.
The film shows starving people who are obese. Is that because the cheap foods have no nutritional value?
Bridges: Yes, and most hungry kids don’t even know about vegetables. In schools nowadays we have food in an ersatz way, you know, sawdust kind of food. In Santa Barbara, where I live, I’m trying to create the first No Kid Hungry county. It’s a program about getting kids out of the classroom and into community gardens where they can learn about nutrition.
Click here for part II