The film highlights several different families and how they struggle to make ends meet while trying to provide for their loved ones. In Colorado, a woman works at a local restaurant and only brings home $120 every two weeks. Seven people live in the household and all of the adults have jobs, but they still find themselves stretching their budget far past its breaking point and making something out of nothing whenever they run out of food. A young girl named Rosie is so hungry that she often can't concentrate at school and admits to daydreaming about her teacher and classmates being types of fruit the majority of the time.
Barbie, a mother of two, loses her job and applies for public assistance. She eventually gets a full-time job at the food stamps office, but her new salary disqualifies her food stamp status. Her children receive no breakfast or lunch at day care because of it. She now finds herself in the same position she was in three months ago despite being better off financially.
Obesity ranks highest in the state of Mississippi and in certain areas most stores don't carry fresh fruits and vegetables. On a good day, a handful of bananas may be available.
Despite churches going out of their way to feed anyone who's interested every Wednesday where anywhere from 80-120 people show up, a man transporting four pallets of food to a hunger ridden town twice a week, and a teacher using her free time to pass out food bags to students who don't know where their next meal is coming from, it's only offering a temporary fix to a massively abiding problem.
"A Place at the Table" points out that fresh produce has increased 40% over the past couple decades while junk food has decreased 40% and that's why obesity and hunger insecurity are both part of the same issue. Eating a bunch of cookies while watching this documentary may not have been the best of ideas or maybe it just helped solidify what it was trying to get across.
"A Place at the Table" does an excellent job portraying its message and its one that everyone across the nation needs to hear, but at the same time it seems to suffer the same fate most documentaries do; it tries to guilt its audience into believing in their cause. So while buying a venti coffee at Starbucks may cost the same amount as feeding two starving students, it probably isn't going to change any time soon. Most people in this economy have a hard enough time just taking care of their own families.
This does make you feel grateful for what little you have, that job you hate suddenly feels like a blessing, and having the freedom to buy whatever groceries you like is a lot like discovering buried treasure. But as you see these issues brought to light in front of congress with little to no resolution, you realize how sad it is that this is never going to go away.
Personally speaking, "A Place at the Table" is the type of film to avoid. It makes you feel guilty for having more than what these people have. Film has always been an escape tactic for reality. You go to a movie theater to forget about your troubles for a few hours and relax, blow off steam by watching something with a lot of action or explosions, or bring the family together with family films. "A Place at the Table" may bring to light a hunger epidemic the entire United States faces, but it also casts an even darker shadow on an already tainted world. You're going to leave that theater more depressed than when you went in with "A Place at the Table."