A Place at the Table – Movie Review – 2013

Barbie Izquierdo feeds her children spaghetti bought with food stamps.

Barbie Izquierdo feeds her children spaghetti bought with food stamps.

I’ve volunteered at Bethel Chapel Church for the past 5 years. In this time, I have participated in several food drives at the Kensington Neighborhood House, which is loosely affiliated with my church. Due to budget restrictions, they are considering whether to stay open as a food cupboard, or perhaps convert their operation to a counseling center.

A Place at the Table is a film about diagnosing hunger in America. This is a complex problem, whether you are a small soup kitchen in Kensington, or you are Jeff Bridges, actor turned activist who has spent more than 30 years raising awareness of this issue. He started with founding the End Hunger campaign in 1984, he produced the film Hidden in America in 1996 that also addressed this issue, and now, in 2013, he is still fighting.

This is due, in large part, to inaction on the part of the government. Though the Child Nutrition Act was renewed in 2010, experts in the film point out a major fatal flaw: funding was taken from the food stamps program to pay for the new initiative. In one of many easily understood info-graphics throughout the film, we see how only 6 cents are being added to the pot to get kids better food.

Though the issue of hunger has many layers, the variety of people interviewed, from the Colorado countryside to inner city  Philadelphia, gives the audience a good sense of the problem. Teachers, doctors, authors, clergymen, chefs, lawyers all help focus in on what the problem really is. At times, this can feel overwhelming, yet the film, directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, never feels erratic, but develops an organic rhythm.

Likewise, the Kensington Neighborhood House employed several volunteers, including my family, to interview people in the neighborhood to see what they needed. Like many in this film, they wanted better education, better employment, better relationships in addition to better food. The film does its best work when it shows that the problem is not food, and we do have the resources to end hunger. Rather than leaving you hopeless, the film empowers you to envision your ideal America, and see how it can easily become a reality.

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North and South Poles

A great thing about Olney is its diversity.

There are many different kinds of people going to school here, working here, passing through or living here 24/7. The eateries reflect that: you can get soul food from a food cart, cuisine from Asia or from Jamaica. There are almost no limits.

Yet, when I went to the “Shoppes at LaSalle” mall, I noticed an interesting contrast. Fresh Grocer is at one side of the mall, and Dunkin Donuts is at the other.

This immediately brought to my mind the common misconception about healthy living: I either have to shop at a place like “Fresh Grocer” or I have to “run on Dunkin”. But, as there are a numerous places to eat in Olney, so are there numerous shades and degrees of healthy or unhealthy food.

There’s no reason to tie yourself to trendy “health food stores”, or spend all your time at a fast food place. There are plenty of options: you just have to look.