A Place at the Table

Chris Herlinger | March 4, 2013

Barbie Izquierdo and kids in A PLACE AT THE TABLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Barbie Izquierdo and kids in A PLACE AT THE TABLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

My CWS colleagues know I am a film buff. Happily, living in New York City, I am in the right locale for indulging that passion, including documentaries, a particular favorite. Luckily, my work life merged with my love of film a few days back when I saw the New York launch of “A Place at the Table,” an unusually fine documentary about hunger in the U.S.

The film makes an all-too convincing case about the need to change our absurd national food system. In a country with more than enough means to feed itself, as many as 50 million people, or roughly one in four children, are “food insecure” – which means they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.

At fault is a crazy system that, in effect, subsidizes “empty calories,” making healthy food (like fresh fruits and vegetables) often too far out of reach for the nation’s poor. It’s a “two-tier” system, and it is hurting us all, but particularly those who are struggling economically.

The “talking heads” in the film are smart, wise and not just a little passionate about the topic. Actor Jeff Bridges, who has long championed the cause of fighting hunger, is particularly memorable when he makes the points that “Charity is a great thing but it’s not the way to end hunger,” and that, “If another country were doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

What lingers in the mind most are the personal stories from the film, which center on struggling families in Philadelphia and in rural Colorado and Mississippi. For me, having grown up in Colorado, the parts of the film made in my home state were perhaps the most poignant. It was moving to see how one rural community is struggling with hunger in its midst. (The church, not surprisingly, plays a big role in providing food for those who need it.)

The film’s executive producer, chef Tom Colicchio (of “Top Chef” fame) was at the film’s Friday, March 1, New York launch. Speaking about hunger in the U.S, he said, “It’s hidden in plain view.” I hope “A Place at the Table” gets traction so that hunger becomes a little less hidden and we can act to eradicate it.

Here’s the film’s web site – http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table. The film is now in fairly wide release throughout the country, and is also available on I-Tunes and on-demand. It would make an excellent point of reflection and discussion for the entire CWS community as we work to do our bit to end hunger.

by Chris Herlinger, a writer with CWS