Tom Colicchio, Jeff Bridges on Mission to End Hunger in America

'A Place at the Table' explores little-known but major issue
Discussing 'A Place at the Table' - Part 1

Directors Kristi Jacobson & Lori Silverbush along with Executive Producer Tom Colicchio talk about their new film that addresses America's Hunger Crisis

A Place at the Table

Click here for part two of the above interview. 

A Place at the Table, the new film by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, will most likely be coming to a theater somewhere close to you very soon. Go see it. It will change your entire way of thinking about what it means to be hungry in America.

When we think of hunger, we tend to conjure images of starvation in third-world countries, which is something different altogether. This film sheds light on people right here in the United States who are what’s called "food insecure," meaning that most of the time they don’t know where their next meal is coming from or how they’re going to pay for it.

"This isn’t a problem that you can see just by looking," Silverbush said during a press conference this week that was also attended by her husband and executive producer of the film Tom Colicchio, Jacobson, actor Jeff Bridges, who helped found the End Hunger Network more than 30 years ago, and Share Our Strength founder Bill Shore. "You just don’t know if there’s someone on the bus with you who’s struggling."

According to the film, approximately 50 million Americans, or approximately one in six, are food insecure. And contrary to current political dialogue, they’re not just sitting back and collecting food stamps. More than 80 percent of families that are food insecure have at least one working adult in the household, and the average food stamp benefit, which in order to receive a household of four needs to earn less than $29,000 per year, amounts to less than $5 per day.

"So much of the conversation is about takers," Jacobson said. "We can start by not accepting this kind of language. We don’t call people on Social Security takers. It’s unacceptable to talk this way."

"This can’t be thought of as a welfare program. It’s a nutrition program," Colicchio added.

In the film, we meet three Americans with different stories who are united by food insecurity. Barbie, a single Philadelphia mom with two young children, sometimes can only afford to feed her children canned spaghetti. . Rosie, a Colorado fifth grader, has trouble concentrating in school because she’s so hungry. Tremonica, a Mississippi second grader, struggled with health problems because her food intake is largely comprised of empty calories. We also meet several other folks who are struggling, including a sheriff who’s embarrassed to go to the food bank.

"There’s so much shame," said Silverbush. "And that feeling of humiliation stays with them for a lifetime."

Believe it or not, there was a time not so long ago when social programs had largely wiper out hunger in America. "Thirty-five years ago it was just a matter of creating political will, which we did," said Bridges. "There was money, know-how, and food, and with events like Live Aid we were really able to raise awareness. But then holes started to grow in the safety net."

Economic woes in the early 1980s forced the Reagan administration to cut social programs just as they were needed, and the number of those who need assistance has only grown since then.

So what can be done about these issues?

"What’s lacking today is public will," Silverbush said. "We need to make hunger a voting issue. If politicians are going to not get on board, they need to be labeled pro-hunger. That forces them to do something about it."

 "You can’t have a strong America with weak, malnourished kids," Shore added.


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Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.