Even food-related situations that are visible can get lost in the shuffle. But no food-related situation is as invisible as hunger.
"A Place at the Table" did its earnest to put a face on that place at the table. We got three concrete examples, though Rosie from Colorado stole the show. The film didn't spend as much time with Tremonica, the 2nd grade girl from Mississippi. And Barbie's Philadelphia story was more about the hunger of her young kids, too young to really tell us what they were feeling. Rosie talked to us about how hunger impacted her school day and concentration. Even though Rosie's life has a lot of problems — she sleeps on the floor of the laundry room and shares that floor with her sister — she comes across as upbeat, further masking the ramifications of what hunger does to her life.
The teachers in the two stories involving school-age children are heroes in their own way. Rosie's teacher is tough with her on why she can't pay attention in class, but later we learn about her own childhood where she went hungry and watch her deliver food to her neighbors, including Rosie and her family. Her anguish as she delivers mostly starches to these families exemplifies the tragic irony of hunger: underfed and overweight.
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Tremonica's 2nd-grade teacher sees that world as she is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes while Tremonica has asthma and is overweight. The simple act of teaching her students the art of appreciating honeydew melons is a beautiful, lasting lesson.
Pastor Bob in Colorado is also a hero. He develops an after-school day care where kids are fed. His food pantry has to grow to try and meet the ever-growing need for food.
Contrary to the inaccurate stereotype, these people are working. Rosie's mom is a waitress who makes $120 every two weeks, yet that is "too much" for food stamps. When Barbie does land a job, ironically helping others who are hungry to get help, she still can't afford to feed her kids well. Tremonica's mom has to drive 66 miles round trip because she can't find fresh vegetables in her Mississippi town.
Marion Nestle had an intriguing graph in the film, noting that the price of fresh fruit and vegetables has gone up 40% since 1980, yet the relative price for processed food has declined 40% over same time period. We all expect the former to happen; the latter takes some work and screwed up priorities.
The obesity issue in this country is visible in part because we can see it either in person on the street or as headless fat people in TV news stories on obesity. Obesity gets a lot more coverage than hunger, especially on TV. But as "A Place at the Table" demonstrates, the two problems go hand in hand. And we do need to talk a lot more about hunger. The best way to talk about hunger is to make that problem visible.