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Moyers: 50 Million Go Hungry in America

Debates on how to address hunger are filled with clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help. But the documentary "A Place at the Table" paints a truer picture of America’s poor.
 
 
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Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us — one in six Americans — go hungry. More than a third of them are children. Debates on how to address hunger – in both Congress and the media — are filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers. But the documentary A Place at the Table paints a truer picture of America’s poor.

On an encore broadcast, Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers, and Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, join Bill to break these stereotypes apart and share how hunger hits hard at people from every walk of life.

“The cost of food insecurity, obesity and malnutrition is way larger than it is to feed kids nutritious food,” Jacobson tells Bill.

“There’s no opportunity for people who are low-income to really engage in our democracy,” says Chilton. “I think they’re actively shut out.”

Also on the show, Bill shares a short film that first aired on Bill Moyers Journal in 2008, telling the story of an urban garden and farmers market in the East New York neighborhood of New York City called  East New York Farms! To this day, the project provides healthy produce to community residents who must otherwise travel miles to the nearest supermarket, and addresses food justice by promoting local sustainable agriculture and community-led economic development.

The following is a transcript of the interview, which originally appeared on  BillMoyers.com: 

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company… “A Place at the Table”

KRISTI JACOBSON: When we were making this film we traveled all over the country and again and again met people who were working and trying to make ends meet but were not able to put food on the table.

MARIANA CHILTON: There's no opportunity for people who are low income to really engage in our democracy. And I think that they're actively shut out as well.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. The summer blitz of blockbuster movies has arrived. Super heroes or lesser mortals with excellent motor skills are here to save the Earth from: super villains, asteroids, aliens or other disasters, natural in nature but probably induced by global warming.

Yes, it’s another summer of excess and escapism with the thrills and chills of Hollywood scaring us down to our popcorn, yet always with a happy ending. Meanwhile, back here in the real world, where we actually live, the best film of the summer isn’t an epic tale of horror or adventure but an eye-opening, heart-moving and mind-expanding reminder that millions of people in this richest country in the world, working men and women and their children, don't have enough to eat. The film’s called “A Place at the Table” and it's one of the best documentaries I've seen in years.

Almost fifty million Americans -- one in six -- receive food stamps. And yet recently, the House of Representatives wrestled over a farm bill because members of congress continued to fight over how many billions to slash from the food stamp program. In the end, they got the farm bill through by stripping food stamps out of it completely, to be voted on some other day. But once again we heard all the clichés about freeloaders who are undeserving of government help, playing the system and living large at the expense of taxpayers. This movie, “A Place At The Table” breaks those stereotypes apart and shows us that hunger hits hard at people who work hard to make a living. Don’t miss this one, its real life.

 
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