A Place at the Table

 
Powerful docu explores the problem of hunger in America.
  • Review Date: February 27, 2013
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 84 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The takeaway is that combating hunger needs to happen on the policy level, not just through charitable institutions. There's a clear call to action: to ask politicians to commit to ensuring that no child goes hungry, particularly since there's no shortage of food in the United States. The specialists explain how poverty and obesity go hand in hand and how you can be obese and malnourished (a doctor calls the phenomenon "stuffed and starved"). Experts also reveal how living with food insecurity means that the food you can afford tends to be processed and bad for you. All of these messages could spur viewers to take action, volunteer their time, write a letter to their elected officials, and most of all, show compassion for the epidemic of food insecurity.

Positive role models

Several amazing role models and advocates are featured, from medical doctors and public health experts like Prof. Mariana Chilton -- who started the Witnesses to Hunger initiative, featuring mothers who deal with food insecurity -- to actor Jeff Bridges, who started the End Hunger Network. There's also a Colorado pastor and his wife who've dedicated their ministry to providing regular food and meals for their struggling congregation, a teacher who goes out of her way to make sure that bags of groceries and snacks are delivered to her hungry students, and a Mississippi teacher who introduces healthy foods in class so her students will ask for healthier alternatives to junk food.

Violence

No violence, but the issue of hunger -- particularly how it affects children -- is upsetting and will likely worry children who are prone to fretting about global issues.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Some discount processed food brands are shown or mentioned, as are supermarkets (and their logos) like Piggly Wiggly. But the intent is not to promote those brands but to demonstrate why it's a shame that they're all that low-income families can afford.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the documentary A Place at the Table addresses difficult and mature issues revolving around hunger in the United States. By visiting different "food desert" communities -- the urban streets of Philadelphia, a rural town in Colorado, a backroads hamlet in Mississippi -- and interviewing not just experts but also the families who live on extremely limited incomes or access to food, the filmmakers capture the pervasive problem of food insecurity. There's no violence, swearing, drinking, or sex, but very young children won't understand the discussion -- and kids who are sensitive to others' misfortune may find the subject matter worrying/upsetting. The movie argues that hunger should be a nonpartisan priority, simultaneously positing that certain pro-"agribusiness" politicians oppose more social spending to combat hunger.

Kids say

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What's the story?

A PLACE AT THE TABLE addresses the issue of hunger in America. This isn't just about our nation's fascination with fast food (like Super Size Me or Fast Food Nation) or eating poorly but about the epidemic of food insecurity -- how 50 million Americans (one in four children) don't know whether they'll be able to eat on any given day. The filmmakers interview a host of academics, specialists, and advocates -- from public health professor Mariana Chilton to actor Jeff Bridges, who founded the End Hunger Network -- but it's the "real experts" -- mothers and kids who live with food insecurity -- who are the heart of the film.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

For parents, A PLACE AT THE TABLE will be devastating to watch. Seeing eloquent fifth-grader Rosie explain how it's hard to focus in class because her stomach hurts from being hungry, or watching an unhealthy, overweight Mississipi girl reveal that the only food she has at home is cookies and chips is upsetting. What's even more disturbing is all of the documentary's evidence that private food relief programs -- through churches and nonprofits -- mean well but don't solve the fundamental problem of hunger.

On the other hand, the movie follows some real champions of the cause: a Colorado pastor who picks up and delivers four pallets of food -- in addition to hot dinners -- to his congregants and community; Dr. Chilton, who founded a program to empower "Witnesses to Hunger" -- families in which at least one adult works but they still can't afford to feed their kids; and Bridges, who is Hollywood's most outspoken advocate for ending hunger. This isn't a happy documentary, but it's an important one that challenges how you think and what you assume about hunger, public assistance, and the needs of people -- in some cases, our neighbors -- who are hungry every day.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the issue of hunger and what people can do to help. Can you join a local food bank through your community or house of worship? Can you write a letter as a family to your elected officials? What can your family do?

  • The experts interviewed in A Place at the Table explain how processed food is a big cause of obesity and poor nutrition, how poverty -- and not a shortage of food -- is the cause of hunger. Can your family's shopping decisions help put better food on not just your table, but everyone's?

  • Challenge your family to go on the SNAP diet, even for one day, to see what it's like to live on supplemental assistance. How does it affect your nutritional choices? Is it harder than you imagined?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 1, 2013
DVD release date:June 25, 2013
Cast:Jeff Bridges, Tom Colicchio
Directors:Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Genre:Documentary
Run time:84 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements and brief mild language

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Quality

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written bymrtrucka May 17, 2015
age 9+
 

Thought provoking and well done

We watched this with our 9 and 11 year olds and all thought it was very well done. We had to pause the movie to explain some concepts (such as food stamps and lobbyists) but the kids related to almost all of it. It is somewhat slow-paced, as are many documentaries, but this was not a negative for us. Both of our kids seemed touched by the movie-especially to learn about food deserts (the movie described a small rural town where no fresh produce was sold) and that many people who don't have enough to eat are people who work and have families. The people they follow in the movie were inspiring and upbeat despite their circumstances. The movie does have a somewhat pro-government assistance, anti-agribusiness bent, but we thought their message and story made a lot of sense. There's nothing really offensive in the movie (just one use of the word "hell") but younger kids might not be able to follow it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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