Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Tom Colicchio is perhaps best known for being a judge on Top Chef, but he’s long been interested in the other side of the food equation: the problem of food scarcity. He’s come to realize that real help must mean more than just providing
food for those who are hungry.
He thinks Americans need to
understand how many people don’t have enough to eat and, more importantly,
pressure the government to address the problem. It’s a point he makes
in the documentary film A Place at the Table (released March 1), of which his wife, Lori Silverbush, is a director and producer.
Colicchio gave an interview to Time magazine back in March of this year Top Chef's Tom Colicchio and 'A Place at the Table', in which he made this pointed observation:
During the presidential election, you had primary debates, presidential
and vice-presidential debates, and it never came up once. That tells me
that the population is not demanding it, because they don’t know about
it. When we do the screenings and we ask people, “Did you realize it was
this much of a problem?” They’re like, “Absolutely not.” Raising
awareness is an important step to get our population focused on this and
demanding that we fix it. Hunger needs to become a voting issue, just
like the Second Amendment is or the deficit is. It’s time to start
labeling people who are not on board with fixing this as pro-hunger.
After the defeat of the farm bill yesterday with draconian cuts to SNAP (food stamps) and punitive work requirements, Tom Colicchio was a guest on The Last Word, hosted by guest host Alex Wagner. Tom Colicchio: Hunger activists ‘thrilled’ farm bill didn’t pass:
“Hunger advocates are just thrilled,” about the surprise turn of events, said Top Chef host Tom Colicchio.
“It was literally going to take food out of the mouths of children, people will disabilities, working families, seniors. It was just really devastating,” he said during an appearance on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. “Ironically it didn’t pass because there were those on the right that didn’t think it went far enough, and so it didn’t pass for some of the wrong reasons…We really need to take a look at this and create a new farm bill and one that supports hungry Americans, consumers, family farms, and the environment.”
Colicchio said he hopes the failed farm bill will serve as a wake-up call for citizens to start voting on food issues.
You can learn more about the documentary film A Place at the Table here. Hungry in America: Documentary Exposes the Growing Problem of Starvation Amid Plenty:
Produced by Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio and directed by his wife and filmmaker Lori Silverbush, the documentary, which is in theaters and available on iTunes on March 1, focuses on the 50 million Americans, including one in four children, who can’t get enough to eat every day.
The film explores some of the factors contributing to the
high prevalence of hunger in the U.S., including poverty, inadequate
food assistance programs, and the high cost of healthy food. The film
follows several characters, including a single mom trying to feed her
kids more than canned spaghetti at every meal, and a fifth-grader who
can’t concentrate in school because of hunger pangs.
About 44 million Americans rely on the government’s food assistance
plan, or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which
provides less than $5 per person, per day on average. That’s hardly
enough, especially for growing children.
“I think if you ask people, ‘Who’s on food stamps?’ they’d say,
‘People who are out of work and lazy.’ It’s people who work. That’s why I
think it’s really important that we increase the minimum wage, because
hunger is an issue of poverty,” Colicchio told TakePart.
And if families that are surviving below the poverty line are able to
eat, they often aren’t eating well. It’s hard, if not impossible, to buy
healthy foods, which often cost more than processed foods . . .
That’s a point that Colicchio and Silverbush also make in the
documentary. If parents are feeding their children unhealthy foods, it’s
because these are the foods that they can afford. Prices, not food
scarcity, are a driving factor in what’s purchased at check-out. “It’s
easy to demonize parents for making bad choices and feeding their kids fast food with empty calories and lots of fat and no nutrition and sugary drinks,” Colicchio told
TakePart. “But if that stuff is cheap and you have no money, the
difference between being hungry and crying all night long or putting
soda in them—what choice do you have?”
Lack of access also deters healthy eating; with so little to spend on
groceries, many families are forced to buy the unhealthy options that
fill the shelves at the corner store instead of spending the time and
money to seek out fresh foods at grocery stores, which are harder to
find in many low-income communities. Such “food deserts” are common in
both rural and urban communities where business owners have decided it’s
too costly to carry and re-stock nutritious fare.
* * *
Greater awareness of the prevalence of food deserts, however, spurred
grassroots campaigns to bring healthier foods to low-income areas. Some
groups have even adopted a “pop-up” or mobile model to provide food to
* * *
In the film, Colicchio and Silverbush also focus on ways to address
hunger in America. Leveling prices and redistributing subsidies to help
make healthier foods more affordable is one strategy they explore. “Our
tax dollars are really going toward prop[ping] up fast food, and if some
of that money was siphoned off of corn, wheat and soy subsidies and
moved over to fresh fruits and vegetables, it could make a major
difference,” Colicchio tells TakePart.
Such advocacy for the hungry may be leading to some solutions.
Recently, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited South
Dakota State University to announce over $75 million in grants for
research, education and projects to promote increased food security in
the U.S. and globally. The grants were given to groups at 21 U.S.
universities to identify ways to increase the availability of food and
reduce the number of Americans who worry every day about where their
next meal will come from.
The documentary is also a rallying cry for more action in addressing
hunger in America. The filmmakers urge viewers to contact their House
and Senate representatives, and provide more resources on their site.
Watch the A Place At The Table trailer here: