The nonfiction advocacy film A Place at the Table addresses the problem of hunger in America. You don't see listless victims waiting for help here - the production instead focuses on bright-eyed well- spoken individuals from big cities and small towns struggling to improve their plight.
The statistics are startling - filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush tell us that one in six Americans don't get enough to eat, and that half the children in the country - half - will rely on federal supplemental food assistance at some point. If that doesn't surprise you, it's probably because you and/ or your friends grew up receiving assistance and the practice was so commonplace that it seems normal now.
50 million Americans routinely deal with food insecurity - not knowing where their next meal is coming from. And what they eventually get is not necessarily healthy. The film states that processed food prices have gone down as fresh food costs continue to rise. That may not remain true now - from what I've seen, it appears that the cost of most everything is going up of late. But I think the basic point remains true: food that's bad for you is cheaper and more accessible than food that's good for you, making it more likely that hungry Americans will end up dealing with obesity, diabetes and other health problems.
So what's up? The filmmakers' maintain that in the late '70s the problem was more or less under control, due to well-funded food stamp and school cafeteria programs. But in the '80s, funding was cut and the burden shifted from the government to charities and the private sector. Is their contention correct? I dunno. Jacobson and Silverbush do not present opposing points of view.
The years when the responsibility was purportedly passed off by the government reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad in the late '70s. I read an excerpt from a newsmagazine article about baby boomers that stated that my generation was resolute in their determination to not grow up, saying "this is a first generation that has reached adulthood, but will still skip lunch to buy a poster." We both laughed, then my dad said, "You know, it won't be so funny when your generation is in charge. What's going to happen when the country is run by overage kids who refuse to take responsibility for anything?"
Could that be part of the explanation? Has hunger escalated because baby boomers in charge of the government opted out of their responsibilities because responsibility is such a hassle? Could this all be part of (as writer Tim Goodman brilliantly calls it) the dumbassification of America? Are we that lazy and dopey? I'd do some research on the subject and try to make a cohesive case one way or the other, but that would require effort and effort is such a drag, man.
A Place at the Table contains interviews with lots of individuals determined to do what they can to eradicate hunger in America. Recognizable names include beloved actor and activist Jeff Bridges and Top Chef's Tom Colicchio. You'll hear lots of interesting, engaging and touching remarks. The most poignant comes from an expert who states that the primary question is not "Why don't people have enough to eat?," but rather "Why are people poor?" Could it be that the current problem with hunger comes from the disappearing middle class and the widening gap between the rich and the poor? Chew on that for a while.
The Neverending Story (1984)
Indy Film Fest's Roving Cinema series lands on Indy Reads Books this week for a digital presentation of The Neverending Story, a bullied kid who takes refuge in the land of Fantasia, where he glides through the skies atop his trusty friend, Falkor the Luckdragon. Feb. 28, 7 p.m. @ Indy Reads Books, $8, indyfilmfest.org
Flight of the Butterflies 3-D
The Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis is partnering with downtown's IMAX theater to present the 3-D story of the monarch butterfly, which annually migrates from Mexico to Canada and back (a trip which spans two to three generations). Opens March 1 @ IMAX Theatre in the Indiana State Museum; $9.50 adult, $7.50 senior, $6 children