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March 3, 2013

Filmmakers want cause -- hunger -- to have 'A Place at the Table'

Sometimes a documentary is more than a non-fiction film. Sometimes it becomes a cause.

That was the idea behind the film “Bully” last year, a movie that tapped into a national movement, a national conversation about bullying.

And somewhere in the four-year process of making the critically acclaimed “A Place at the Table,” filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush realized that they wanted more than a movie out of their research into hunger in America. They wanted to start a conversation.

“I was stunned when I learned there is hunger and food insecurity in every single corner of America,” Jacobson says.

They met with experts, networked with food assistance organizations, and found hungry and poorly nourished people in cities across the nation, and in small towns from Colorado to Mississippi.

“It was not the picture of hunger I expected to find,” says Jacobson, a New Yorker.

It wasn’t just urban, it was rural. It cuts across racial boundaries. And it’s not just the unemployed, but the working poor who face it, too, she says.

“Multiply these deeply personal stories times 50 million and you get a movie you have to make,” Jacobson points out.

The stories of the little Colorado girl, part of two extended families sharing the same house, adults all working but unable to afford enough food; a single mom in Philadelphia; a waitress in Mississippi; all “help the numbers resonate more deeply and who also illuminate just how entrenched and complex the hunger crisis has become in our country,” Slant Magazine stated of the film.

“A Place at the Table” ties together hunger and America’s obesity epidemic, the “food deserts” where only cheap, subsidized processed food is available to people of limited means and no transportation. People who can only find and buy junk food get fat. The government’s decision, in the 1980s, to pass this problem on to food banks means that there are 40,000 of them operating, stretched to their limits today, when there were only 200 when Ronald Reagan took office and food programs were cut back.

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