In a world where childhood obesity (and obesity in general) has become a national epidemic, it’s hard to believe that the same nation, these United States, could still be home to millions of children and families that are going hungry on a daily basis. With children being fed cheap and utterly unhealthy lunches at school and parents unable to afford to purchase healthy snacks and meal items due to an archaic system of governmental support for those unable to find economic footing (be it because of health issues, a loss of a job, etc), one in every four children don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and one out of every two children will at some point be living off of that very governmental support.
However, what is being done to stop this epidemic before it gets worse? According to a new documentary from the team behind the bewildering Food Inc, entitled A Place At The Table, the answer to that question is simple: not much.
Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush have given the world a look at this issue, and while it’s a film that doesn’t ultimately say much that a film like their previous picture, Food Inc, hadn’t already discussed with regards to the disturbingly unhealthy food being fed to the youth across this nation, the scope with which hunger has hit this country is something unforeseen by most.
Perceived by most of the public as a nation full of over fed men, women and children, the opposite is also very much true. In the film’s strongest moments, we become privy to a handful of tales of families and children who are unable to truly know what they’ll be eating next. With an average of $4.50 a day for most families on food stamps, the film paints a justifiably bleak portrait of a system that never allows those it was designed to help truly get their feet under them fiscally.
The other, and arguably the most intriguing, topic discussed here is the role of schools within this epidemic. With schools taking under a dollar in government subsidies from every school lunch given, schools are completely and utterly unable to fund healthy breakfasts and lunches for students to consume. With vending machines popping up more and more in schools as each year goes by, hyper sweet and fat laced snacks and “meals” are becoming the go-to for youngsters in need of a pick up between classes or during lunch breaks.
Interspersed with interviews with experts like chef/tv show host/activist Tom Colicchio and movement leaders like movie star Jeff Bridges, the film offers up a rather insightful bit of contextualization opposite the true life tales. In these interviews, we are given information with regards to those groups and movements that have risen to help stop the rise of hunger in this nation.
Incredibly straight forward with regards to its portrayal of its intriguing bits of information, the film doesn’t go out of its way to stylize each sequence, like most modern issue documentaries, instead finding director Jacobson and Silverbush crafting a beautiful simple human drama. Allowing the weight of this issue to fester and grow with every heartbreaking bit of information or true life story (particularly that of a young child whose asthma is worsened by the horrible diet, a diet that is the only one affordable to her mother due to the lack of real government support), the film’s simplistic aesthetic is quite possibly its greatest attribute.
Taking a look at the ever growing epidemic that is hunger in this country, particularly among children, A Place At The Table is a beautifully simple and yet heartbreakingly powerful look at a nation whose children are unable to be confident in where they’ll be eating from next. With many families unable to afford healthy snacks and meals, the food industry and government subsidies have made it impossible for those hurt by the still-faltering economy to feed their children. This movie is both cinematically entrancing, and, more so, a breathtaking call to arms for a nation that should and has to do better. Generations depend on it.