A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: March 1, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: 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
- Last updated: February 7, 2020
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