The majority of people who collect food stamps and utilize food banks have a working adult in the family. The average food stamp benefit is $3 a day. Believe it or not, here in the “greatest country on earth” we have a hunger problem.
A Place at the Table opens today in theatres and is available on iTunes and On Demand. Executive Producer Chef Tom Colicchio and directors Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson have made a film that examines hunger in America, its causes, its social and economic ramifications, reveals the misconceptions surrounding this issue, and offers solutions.
This is a problem that can be solved by paying a living wage and funding programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Sadly, the meager food stamp benefit recipients are provided encourages the purchase of sugary, high-processed foods because they are the least expensive; nutritious foods generally cost more. Even those in poverty, because of their food choices, have an obesity problem—yes, you can be starving and be obese. Many urban residents live in a food desert so it is very difficult to access affordable, healthy foods.
As many as 50 million people rely on charitable food programs; charitable organizations are great, but they are not enough. I see this charitable work every day in Manhattan. St. Bart’s Episcopalian Church is across the street from my Park Avenue office. The homeless and needy start lining up on the sidewalk around 4:00 PM waiting until the soup kitchen doors open. It is a striking contrast—these hungry, bedraggled people lying and sitting on the sidewalks amidst some of the most expensive real estate in the world, housing billion dollar corporations and their wealthy CEOs and senior managers as well as people like me, who while not rich, are comfortable.
This documentary is an important one. Kids who are hungry find it difficult to concentrate at school. They are instead thinking about when they will eat again and embarrassed to tell anyone about their situation. These hungry children are one of the reasons the government-subsidized school lunch programs are so vital. Sometimes that is the only, or best, meal they receive in a day, so cutting funding for these programs only serves to hurt the neediest among us—vulnerable children. We are better than this.
I will be watching this film tomorrow On Demand. I hope you will tune in too. Let’s end hunger in America, and while we’re at it, around the world too.