‘A Place at the Table’ puts human face on area hunger
An articulate fifth-grader named Rosie, from Collbran, has become the face of western small town hunger in a recently released documentary film titled, “A Place at the Table.”
The footage was shot in Collbran and other urban and rural areas by directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush. The film focuses on the lack of access to healthy food in what it calls America’s “food deserts.”
Food deserts are “those corners of rural and urban America with no accessible supermarket that carries fresh fruits and vegetables. Millions live in those. Millions more pay the price for having to eat cheaply. Their calories come from the most affordable, most available and least healthy foods out there, leading to obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” a Movie Nation reviewer wrote.
Narrated by Jeff Bridges and celebrity chef Tom Collicchio, the film deals with the difficulty many working families of modest means have finding affordable healthy food in their communities, even if they can afford to buy it. They describe the difficulty in obtaining fresh food in remote communities, such as Collbran and Jonestown, Miss., or blighted urban areas like North Philadelphia, Pa., where large supermarkets do not locate and local stores stock little but highly processed food.
New York nutrition professor Marion Nestle notes in the film, “The price of processed foods has decreased by 40 percent since 1980 while the price of fruit and vegetables has gone up by the same amount.”
“A Place at the Table” has “a lot of star power to drive home its urgent message about hunger in America,” a Movie Nation reviewer wrote. “But the people who steal the show are the Coloradans who make the point by telling their stories in front of the camera.”
The film opens with a narrative by “11-year-old Rosie ... a bright kid living with three generations of her family, all of them working, in a tiny house (in Collbran) — struggling in school because there isn’t enough to eat, because school lunch programs are decades behind inflation in their budgeting.”
Described by the producers as a bright and friendly fifth- grader whose family can’t afford enough to eat, Rosie and her family rely on the soup kitchen run by a local pastor to survive.
But Rosie can imagine a better future.
“My dream is to be an honor roll student,” she says. “My other dream is to be on Extreme. Makeover: Home Edition. I just wish they would come and rescue us from our house ... I want my kids to have a better life than I do: have more food, a bigger house with no mold. Get to do what they want to do, and need to do, and never be hungry.”
Rosie, and her counterparts from other parts of the country, speak for all American children who go to school hungry most days and go to sleep hungry most nights. Despite subsidized school breakfasts and lunches and other efforts to make nutritious meals available to poor children, the programs are failing children living in these food deserts. In some cases, a parent taking a low-wage job that pays just enough to disqualify him or her for public benefits ends up worse off for accepting a job.
William Browning, chairman of Hunger Free Colorado, the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, writes, “I find the situation of tens of millions of Americans going hungry each day completely unacceptable; it is something that can and must be solved as an issue of national security. It’s patriotic to ensure our people, our children, our seniors, our hard-working parents and caregivers, our own neighbors are not hungry. Together we need to rise up, say enough is enough and start focusing on the issue of hunger in our own country.”
The website for “A Place at the Table” presently does not show a booking date for Grand Junction. It will be very unfortunate if the people of Mesa County are not offered an opportunity to see this important film and learn about hunger in our own community. I hope the Avalon or another local venue soon will bring Rosie’s story to Grand Junction. Her voice is too compelling and her needs are too real to ignore.