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PLACE AT THE TABLE, A

What to know: "A Place at the Table" will truly open your eyes to the harsh realities of a food insecure nation.
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
Recommended age 8-18
84 minutes
DVD
MAGNOLIA PICTURES
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"A Place at the Table" completely transformed my paradigm of America. When I hear the words "hunger" and "starvation," images of ravenous, malnourished, dying children in Africa instantly pop into my head. However, this poignant, simple, and impacting documentary showed me that "hunger" could be sitting right next to me in school. This 84-minute documentary details with moving austerity how and why even in America, the world's richest nation, children are going hungry.

Featuring Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, the founder of the End Hunger Network, "A Place at the Table" follows people, all from different towns and cultural backgrounds, who are food insecure. In other words, they have no idea when and how their next meal is going to come in. 50 million people in America are food insecure. This not only stunts physical development but mental development as well. Take Rosie, a fifth-grader growing up in rural Colorado. She tries to focus in school, but hunger pains cause her to zone out or to imagine her friends and teachers as fruits. Her dream is that one day, her kids can do what they want to do and what they need to do without going hungry.

Another instance is Barbie, a single working mother with two kids. Her toddler son mumbles and has an attention-deficit symptom. This is because of the lack of food for Barbie and her family when he was born. The lasting effects of hunger in a child's first years impact a child much more deeply in the brain than the body. It's an emotional moment to see Barbie break down into tears in front of her kids, exhausted of the intense struggle to make ends meet.

The documentary grippingly touches on so many different issues. It clears up myths and breaks stereotypes. A false paradigm that America blindly looks through is that hunger doesn't exist because children struggle with obesity. However, obesity, hunger, and being food insecure go hand-in-hand. Because of a low income, families on a very limited budget shop for the cheapest foods in store - chips, cookies, and ice cream. Produce is simply too expensive.

Hunger exists not because there is not enough food. Hunger exists because it isn't a big enough issue on the political agenda. The documentary is packed with real statistics and visuals that are not just standard, cold numbers, but the toll of hunger is shown in the glimpses of families scrambling to break the cycle of poverty. This film calls out to audiences to end hunger in America by alerting politicians and the government. "It's just appalling," says actor Jeff Bridges. "You know if another country was doing this to our kids we would be at war. It's just insane and it doesn't have to be that way."

"A Place at the Table" will truly open your eyes to the harsh realities of a food insecure nation. I am determined to push forward in this fight of ending hunger, and I believe our nation can rise out of the pit we've buried ourselves in. America's youth has a passion and an unbendable will to fight for what's right, and if pointed in the right direction, I believe that the American Dream of prosperity can come true. The only thing standing between now and the extinction of hunger is the hurdle of ignorance, clouding youths' and the government's minds. Share this documentary with friends and family - I recommend this for all ages. If we act with urgency and boldness, perhaps one day, everyone will have a place at the table.

Reviewed by Cassandra Hsiao, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

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50 Million Americans - 1 in 4 children - don't know where their next meal is coming from. A Place at the Table tells the powerful stories of three such Americans, who maintain their dignity even as they struggle just to eat. In a riveting journey that will change forever how you think about the hungry, A Place at the Table shows how the issue could be solved forever, once the American public decides - as they have in the past - that ending hunger is in the best interests of us all.
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CASSANDRA HSIAO

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