From the snow-capped peaks of Colorado, to the swamplands of the Mississppi Delta, and on to the cracked and graffitied sidewalks of North Philadelphia, A Place at the Table travels across America, juxtaposing beautiful, cinematic landscapes with individuals struggling with poverty and a lack of healthy food. In doing so, the documentary exposes the flawed agricultural policies that have lead to starvation in the wealthiest and most food-abundent nation on the planet.
Made by the same people who did Food Inc, A Place at the Table focuses less on the industrial nature of America’s food system, and more on the startling and paradoxical results of this system: starving, obese people. But how can one of the fattest nations on earth be one of the hungriest? The main reason which the documentary cites is the lack of inexpensive, fresh produce that is a result of America’s defective food policy.
The American government gives billions of dollars to big farms that grow a lot of corn and soy, two easily manipulated cash crops that result in the wide array of cheap processed foods lining the aisles of every grocery and corner store in America. Small, family owned farms growing organic fruits and vegitables recieve no government funding, resulting in expensive and hard to find fresh, healthy produce. As the documentary explains, 50.1 million Americans are now food insecure, a new term referring to those who do not know where their next meal is coming from, and when you are food insecure and have three dollars to spend on groceries, you are going to put those three dollars towards the cheapest, most calorie-dense foods. This lack of funding for natural produce has resulted in poorer individual’s reliance on junk food for sustenance, a trend that is leading to one of the unhealthiest generations of children our nation has ever seen.
Not only are fruits and vegitables expensive, but America’s current agricultural model has turned many parts of rural and urban America into food deserts, places without access to fresh, healthy produce. People living in food deserts have higher rates of obesity related diseases and greater instances of food insecurity than those living within close distance of a super market, trends resulting directly from a lack of access to fruits and vegitables.
One of the hardest parts of the film to accept was its discussion of the school lunch program. The movie states that we currently spend only five cents per child on school lunches, a price that obviously results in nutritionaly inadaquate meals. That congress cannot find a good enough reason to invest in the health of America’s children is disheartening to say the least, and if the notion that a country is only as strong as its children is true, then America should start preparing itself for its long descent down the ladder of major world powers.
So the next time you tell a child to eat their broccoli, do not remind them of the starving children in Africa. Instead, point out their friend next door whose having Ramen and Doritos for dinner and tell them to watch A Place at the Table.