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While Republicans Play Politics Over Food Stamps, New Film Focuses on Hunger in America

Amy Goodman and Raj Patel discuss the 49 million people who are struggling to get enough to eat in America, and why GOP candidates' posturing isn't helping.
 
 
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The new documentary "Finding North" premiering here at the Sundance Film Festival exposes how one in every four American children suffers from hunger, despite living in the wealthiest nation in the world, and nearly 30 percent of American families, more than 49 million people, often go without meals. While Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich decries President Obama as "the food stamp president," author Raj Patel says what is really needed is a conversation about poverty and why the need for food stamps is so high. "It’s true that disproportionately people of color are affected by food insecurity. But what Gingrich is doing, of course, is racially coding poverty by calling President Obama 'the food stamp president,'" Patel said. "He’s invoking these ideas of racialized poverty. Of course, if you look at the people who are on the food stamp program, you see that the majority of them are white and poor." Patel is author of the popular book, "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System." 

 AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s largest festival for independent cinema. I’m Amy Goodman. Continuing with our South Carolina Republican primary coverage, we turn now from the wealthy, whose influence on elections has been multiplied by  Citizens United, to the poor, who could be greatly impacted by this influence.

Republican contender Newt Gingrich, who won the primary by a double-digit margin, recently said President Obama is too sympathetic to Americans in need of food assistance. Gingrich not only called Obama "the food stamp president" but also defended himself when questioned by Fox News moderator Juan Williams during the South Carolina Republican debate.

JUAN WILLIAMS: And I’ve got to tell you, my email account, my Twitter account, has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. You saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church in South Carolina. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as "the food stamp president"? It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. Now, I know among the politically correct you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Newt Gingrich during the South Carolina Republican debate.

Well, a new documentary premiering here at the Sundance Film Festival says one in every four American children suffers from hunger, despite living in the wealthiest nation in the world. And nearly 30 percent of American families, more than 49 million people, are what’s called food insecure. That means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The documentary is called  Finding North, which the filmmakers say is a reference to the nation losing its moral compass.

FOOD-INSECURE MOTHER: I’m struggling so much every day to be able to even feed my kids. Hunger isn’t just someone in Africa that’s real skinny and you can see their ribs. It’s right here in the United States.

JEFF BRIDGES: One in four of our children living in food-insecure homes? It doesn’t—it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

FOOD-INSECURE MOTHER: I used to read pizzeria menus to get rid of my hunger pains, just so I can be able to feed my children.

 
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