Beyond #SNAPchallenge2013: A Place at the Pantry and at the Table

Ready to head out to the community.

When I concluded the SNAP Challenge last February, I made a promise to myself to continue to advocate for the cause of food insecurity in America. While some of those changes started with me (reducing my own food waste, finding ways to be less indulgent on food), I had the opportunity to do some for others this week.

Although I didn’t get to lead an Alternative Spring Break trip this year, I was able to help the ASB Boston group (whose theme for their project is Food Justice) at the Greater Boston Food Bank. Long a locale I’d been hoping to visit, I was happy to give a few hours of my morning packing bread and labeling pasta for distribution in the Boston area. After spending so much time at Second Harvest of the Big Bend in Tallahassee, I was blown away by the resources that GBFB had in their arsenal. And yet, as we well know, these resources are but a fraction of what can be given to those struggling with food insecurity. Further, there is a whole other population of those struggling to subsist that don’t qualify for government assistance such as SNAP. Private organizations and food pantries can provide some of what is needed for this segment of our population, but they can’t provide for them in full.

The new documentary A Place at the Table strives to make its audience aware of food deserts, the depth of the hunger epidemic in America, and the connection between hunger, obesity, and poverty. Having watched a lot of documentaries (I did my senior thesis in college on the evolution and impact of documentary films), it is rare to see one that can be described as equally “heartbreaking” and “inspiring”. While any documentary of this type is designed to highlight facts that support its case, this one shows elements of the story that have been often overlooked. Obesity and hunger aren’t extremes, they’re partners. Full time work doesn’t solve the problem of food insecurity in all cases. And we as a society are capable of solving the problem of hunger in America- we’ve done it before, in the 1970s.

It’s hard to feel, as one person, that this is a solvable problem. I know I got fired up after watching A Place at the Table to make change, and yet simultaneously frustrated because the problem is so much bigger than me. But paralysis isn’t the answer. I can do what I’m capable of within the existing system, while raising awareness about the problem at hand. Jeff Bridges, the celebrity spokesperson for End Hunger Now, brought up the silver lining of the widespread nature of the problem: it will eventually become too big to ignore, and the groundswell to create change will have to move.

Watch this movie if you haven’t already- it’s in theaters, available to rent on iTunes, and also on demand. But don’t stop there. As I’ve said before, I don’t like to stop at talk. Act. Speak up. Do something.

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