By Carina Sorrentino
On Tuesday, Oct. 7, Campus Kitchens and Campus Action teamed up to host a screening of the film “A Place at the Table,” a documentary about hunger in America, along with a discussion with Director of Summer Meals in Schenectady Rachel Curtis.
“A Place at the Table” follows the stories of those who are hungry and those who help the hungry in the United States today.
Filmed from various perspectives and narrated by the cause’s spokesperson Jeff Bridges, the movie gives a firsthand look at what it is like to be hungry in what appears to be one of the world’s most abundant societies.
The film was produced by various partner groups, including Share Our Strength, a non-profit based out of Washington, D.C., that spearheaded the No Kid Hungry campaign.
SOS operates with the mission to end childhood hunger in America. Since beginning its campaign, it has sought to increase the number of children that receive help from summer meal programs, breakfast in the classroom and school lunches.
The organization also focuses on educating families about how to shop for and cook healthy meals while living on a budget, through its program Cooking Matters.
SOS has been working with members of the National Institutes of Health and United States Department of Agriculture to push for increased funding for these programs to increase the number of children getting meals, as well as the quality of those meals.
According to SOS’s statistics, over 16 million children in America live in households that are “struggling to put food on the table.”
Food deprivation takes a very staggering toll on a child’s life, putting his or her ability to perform well in school, for example, at great risk.
Sam Kropp ’15 worked with SOS this summer and helped to organize Tuesday’s event.
Kropp stated, “I think this message is so important, because this is a solvable issue and an issue that each person in our community could help end. When a child is hungry, they will immediately begin to struggle and start to fall behind fast.”
A difficulty in addressing hunger in America is the stereotype that our country is a land of excess, and thus extreme hunger does not seem urgent. This could not be further from the truth. According to Kropp, this is an issue that many Americans are dealing with.
Kropp remarked, “Even though we don’t see it just by looking at their physical bodies, it is a present threat. Many Americans do not believe this is a serious issue because of the contrasting images we see of hunger in the media. American children may not have protruding bellies or bony faces, but that does not mean they aren’t in trouble. In order to fix this problem, we also need to reform the perception of hunger.”
Guest speaker Rachel Curtis addressed the issues of poverty and hunger in Schenectady. Curtis’ dedication to the cause comes from her position at Schenectady Inner City Ministry, which receives funding from SOS in order to make its program more accessible to the community.
Curtis’ message was not only about the prevalence of hunger in our own backyards, but also about the fact that students have the potential to help change it.
“I want Union students to walk away from this event and feel inspired to share what they learned with their friends and their friends’ friends. At SOS, I learned a lot about the power of networks, and by utilizing my network, I hope to inspire others to join the cause or support it, in any way they can,” Kropp concluded.
While the Union bubble is not a place where people tend to go hungry, that does not mean the issue is nonexistent even just a mile down the road.
“A Place at the Table” puts into perspective what hunger can truly do to the lives of innocent children, and how the actions of every individual can go a long way.
Jeff Bridges comments in the film, “If another country was doing this to our kids, we would be at war.”
The film sends the message that there are few representatives to speak up for the starving American population, and now is the time for communities to rise up and make a change.