Yesterday I watched an American documentary film titled “A Place at the Table“.
This movie was directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, with appearances by Jeff Bridges, Raj Patel, and the celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. The film is about hunger in the United States and was released theatrically in the United States on March 1, 2013.
“Food, Inc.” is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner. I watched this movie some two years ago and it´s a brilliant and critical movie about corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.
Well, when it comes to the first mentioned documentary film named “A Place at the Table” a lot of you reading my introductory remarks probably will think now: “What, hunger in the United States, in the richest country of the world? Is this really possible?”
But it´s true. Even in the United States a lot of people suffer from what is called “food insecurity“.
“Food insecurity” means that people suffering from it are not sure when they will have their next meal.
In 2012 about 50 million Americans were food insecure. This was approximately 1 in 6 of the overall population, with the proportion of children facing food insecurity even higher at about 1 in 4. One in every two children receive federal food assistance. The film sees directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America, largely through the stories of three people suffering from “food insecurity“:
- Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two children;
- Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in School because of the hunger she is often suffering; and
- Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health problems are exacerbated by the largely-empty calories her hard-working mother can afford only.
Other Americans struggling with hunger are also featured, including a cop whose monthly paychecks only leaves him enough money to buy food for two weeks, forcing him to use a food bank.
One reason for the growing problem about “food insecurity” not only in the USA, but also in other developed countries is the fact that global food prices are constantly rising since the beginning of our actual millenium.
See for this also the article published in June 6, 2013 “Agriculture: Global food prices rise due to slow agricultural growth” on the website of the “Deutsche Welle“.
See for this also the article published in May 31, 2011 “Rising food prices increase squeeze on poor – Oxfam” on the website of “BBC News“.
The documentary film “A Place at the Table“ shows how hunger poses serious economic, social, and cultural implications for the United States, and shows also that this problem can be solved once and for all, if the American public decides – as they have in the past – that making healthy food available and affordable is in everyone’s and in the whole nation´s best interest.
There is also a companion book titled “A Place at the Table: The Crisis of 49 Million Hungry Americans and How to Solve It“, edited by Peter Pringle and published by Public Affairs.
This book features contributions from Jeff Bridges, Ken Cook, Marion Nestle, Bill Shore, Joel Berg, Robert Egger, Janet Poppendieck, David Beckmann, Mariana Chilton, Tom Colicchio, Jennifer Harris, Andy Fisher, Kelly Meyer and directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.
The film was nominated for Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and has received positive reviews. As of June 2013, it has a 89% approval ratings from 56 professional reviews aggregrated by Rotten Tomatoes.
Well, as I already mentioned, I watched this documentary film yesterday and I was shocked by the magnitude of this problem about “food insecurity” in the United States.
But in some way I know about this problem, because people in Germany living from social welfare often also have problems to survive on more or less 10 euros a day (which is a little bit more than 13 dollars).
If you are on social welfare in Germany, you get your rent paid (up to certain amount, of course) and you have access to the public health insurance. But you have to live on more or less 10 euros a day. And I have friends in Freiburg (my German hometown) who are living on social welfare.
From those 10 euros a day a person living on social welfare in Germany is supposed to finance everything he needs on a daily basis: clothing, food, the furniture and tools you need in a household, transports, communication, if possible also social and cultural activities, etc.
In many cases of course those 10 euros won´t be enough to buy on daily basis high-quality food in a supermarket.
And Germany is the richest country in the eurozone. In the poorer countries of Southern Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy) which are now in the focus of the so called euro crisis, the problem is of course much worse. The social systems in these countries are not comparable to the German one.
I have been often in Madrid in the last years (my mother is a Spaniard and she owns a small apartment in the capital of Spain).
The “Caritas Internationalis“, a confederation of 164 Roman Catholic relief, development and social service organisations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, is organizing also in Madrid a lot of assistance for poor people, which includes of course all kinds of food aid.
Already in October 2012 Caritas was working to provide for at least one million Spaniards now struggling as a result of creeping austerity measures in Spain and warned that their organization was obviously already reaching the “breaking point“.
Look for this for example the article published in October 8, 2012 “Austerity brings Caritas Spain to ‘breaking point’” in the Irish weekly Roman Catholic newspaper “The Irish Catholic“.
This article says: “With the government of Mariano Rajoy enforcing new cutbacks across Spanish society in an attempt to stave off a full European bailout, a new report from Caritas – released on September 27 – points to the increased pressures being endured by ordinary Spaniards as a consequence.
Reporting growing levels of “poverty, inequality and unfairness”, Caritas reveals that it is now assisting an additional 65,000 people since 2011, bringing to over a million those now trying to access its services.
According to the head of Caritas Spain, Sebastian Mora: “People need us for longer and longer and our resources are stretched to breaking point. We are deeply shocked by a crisis that keeps on growing and by the speed and extent to which things are getting worse.
In addition to native-born Spaniards, Caritas is now increasingly working to provide for many undocumented migrants. On September 1, the government enacted new legislation denying health care to illegal immigrants, leaving Caritas as the only viable option for many in need.
“A poorer, less equal and less fair society is being consolidated in our country,” the Caritas report warned of the ongoing cuts”.