Friday, March 20, 2015

A Place At The Table

As part of our project DH and I are trying to learn all we can about food insecurity and the reasons behind it. My mom recommended the excellent documentary "A Place At The Table" which is available for streaming on Netflix or can be purchased at the affiliate link below.

DH and I decided to watch it this weekend and we were pleasantly surprised by the film-but concerned by some of the choices people made. The film looks at food insecurity mostly through the stories of various families and their struggles. The most moving story was of Barbie and her children from Philadelphia. When the film starts she is receiving aid due to a job loss, but by the end of the film she has found a job and been cut off. She is still struggling to feed her children even though she is working. Her story was probably my favorite since she was really trying her hardest and still struggling. I appreciated that they made the point that without living wages we can't expect lower income workers to feed their families.

However, I was frustrated by some of the choices people were making and their lack of priority on food. My grandmother lived through World War II in Germany and passed on her feelings of food insecurity to my mother and then onto myself. Food is something that should ALWAYS be the first priority. It was frustrating to see well fed dogs running around while the family was complaining about having nothing to eat.

DH and I discovered that seeds are actually covered under food stamps this weekend! Many of the families had ample space to grow a garden. DH and I are able to grow all the fruits and vegetables we need for the summer for about 4.00 worth of seeds. We are also able to get plenty of meat from his family farm. Those options weren't explored for either of the farming families that we profiled.

The one part I didn't like the was the insistence on the film of attacking agribusiness and touting the oft repeated line about corporate farms taking over the world. 87% of farms in the United States are family owned farms ( and some of those farms are very large. DH works with a family farm that encompasses over 60,000 acres and runs several different crops-in fact they are one of the largest suppliers of wheat to Anheuser-Busch! They are incorporated as an LLC but it is one family that does all of the work. It frustrates me to see misconceptions spread about the farming industry and especially about ag subsidies. That is an issue that the film didn't handle correctly and actually spread misinformation. All farm subsidies are public knowledge and most farmers receive very little. Combined with the fact that the majority of farms are family owned (and farming itself is a tough business) I don't see how cutting farm subsidies is going to help the problem of food insecurity.

Overall, I would highly recommend this film-it does a wonderful job exploring all the different facets of food insecurity and the governmental response to it. It's a nice overview of a complex problem and the personal stories make the issue hit home better. I would recommend the film to anyone interested in the issue as long as you take some of the political issues with a grain of salt (since all film makers have an agenda).

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