Obesity and hunger – two issues that many think are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. But the reality is that they are very intertwined, as is demonstrated in the new film, “A Place at the Table.”

The documentary from directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush puts a face on the problem of hunger in the United States. Visiting different parts of the country and different families, the film sheds light on an immense problem that is for the most part under the radar. 50 million people in the U.S. – and one in four children – don’t know where their next meal is coming from, a phenomenon known as food insecurity.

Jacobson and Silverbush focus on three individuals: Barbie, a single mother of two in Philadelphia struggling to survive, Rosie, a precocious fifth-grader in Colorado who always seems hungry and Tremonica, a second-grader in Mississippi struggling with health issues. The three are not the normal image of hunger; these are not rail-thin individuals as one might see in food-starved societies in Africa. But their problems are not only hunger; they are physical, mental and emotional. From wondering where their next meal is coming from, not being able to concentrate in school because they are thinking of food or health issues from an unhealthy diet, the daily ordeals are astounding to even imagine. Yet this is happening across the country.

The stories are real and meant to hit a nerve, as the 1968 CBS documentary “Hunger in America” did. The underlying theme is that unlike other socio-economic issues facing this country, resources are in place to fix this growing problem. But for a number of reasons, rather than coming up with solutions, the issues of both hunger and obesity are growing at staggering rates in this country.

Along with the tales of Barbie, Rosie and Tremonica, Jacobson and Silverbush incorporate experts from Marion Nestle to Mariana Chilton to world-renowned chef Tom Collicchio. But perhaps even more startling is some of the statistics presented in the almost 90 minute film. Whether it’s the cost of hunger, the amount going towards farm subsidies (and the difference between large corporations and small outfits) or the cost the federal government puts into school lunches, it really is no wonder to see why the issues are literally growing by the minute.

The film does bring up the point that the resources are in place to come to a solution. But how viable are those solutions? This is not a problem that is ever going to go away overnight. Having attended the Childhood Obesity Conference in San Francisco put on by Slow Food SF for the past two years, which is another truly eye-opening conference, there is a real sense of frustration, not only with the experts and speakers, but also the community as a whole. Why aren’t we doing more to combat childhood obesity and hunger issues? What is out government – both local and federal – going to do? Are there really answers? As easy as it seems to just pour money into the problem, the issue is truly a complex one with so many different issues in place.

The value of “A Place at the Table” comes in the fact that it is bringing the issue to the general public, which hopefully will lead to conversation and eventually action and solutions.



Photo Credit Magnolia Pictures