Documentary: "A Place At The Table" (2012)

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This film provides an excellent up-close-and-personal look at the many ways hunger affects Americans (especially children and single mothers) in this country today.  The directors (Jacobson & Silverbush) present the issue of childhood hunger with great pathos, then leave the film hanging with no real resolution, just a nod to the need for further policy change on this issue.

We got the sense that the directors were mainly trying to educate Americans as to the enormity of the hunger crisis in America today.  And it is enormous.  According to A Place at the Table, some 50 million Americans encounter inadequate food supplies, or "food insecurity," on a regular basis.  Over the course of their lifetime, every 1 in 2 children in this country will receive food assistance of some type.  And contrary to what is often believed, it is not just the unemployed and disabled who apply for food assistance: nearly 85% of those who apply have one working adult in the household.  

Several of those documented in this film mention the sense of shame they feel when receiving assistance, whether that is from the government (in the form of food stamps) or private charities (food banks, churches and the like).  And yet the so-called "assistance" provided is barely adequate for survival, much less childhood nutrition.  According to the film, the average allotment for a single mom with 2 kids in Philadelphia per person, per day from food stamps is $3.00 (in 2012 dollars).  Did we mention that's per day?  As in, $1 per meal.  For a similar family here in Texas, the Health and Human Services Commission estimates they'd receive $5.50/person/day, or $1.83/person/meal.  

$1.83 buys what these days, exactly?  We asked The Google ("how much can you buy with $1.83 in Texas") and got a bunch of gobblty-gook.  So we tried the sales flyer for our local H-E-B, with better results.  The USDA's main page for SNAP shows a happy woman shopping for produce, chubby baby slung across her chest.  So are food stamps for produce, mainly?  At our H-E-B we could use $1.83 to buy a grapefruit plus (most of) a bell pepper.  Other purchase options: we could buy (not quite) a pound of chicken breast, or a can of beans (with $0.85 left over).  On the other hand, as the documentary points out, processed foods are more cost-competitive.  We could buy a whole 2 Liter bottle of Pepsi, with $0.83 left over.  We could buy not one but TWO 24-oz loaves of white sandwich bread and still have $0.07.  Of course, we could just head on over to a place that begins with M and ends with 'nalds and pick up an entire burger for just $1.00.  

Others have had better success at eating healthfully on SNAP. To believe A Place at the Table, however, no one is ever full on food stamps, and attempting to feed growing babies on food stamps leads to all kinds of developmental and health issues for them.  

So what is the answer to the looming hunger crisis, where our kids can't focus in school because they're hungry?  Where our obesity statistics make the news every month, driven by this nutrient-poor diet?  Where our babies experience developmental delay and life-long health problems due to poor nutrition?

We don't have the answers.  But go watch A Place at the Table.  It's a great place to start raising your own personal awareness of the issue of hunger in America.  

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