A PLACE AT THE TABLEApril 09, 2013


Magnolia Pictures

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: A PLACE AT THE TABLE (Magnolia Pictures).



By Kim Gabelmann

A PLACE AT THE TABLE tackles the disturbing and mostly underreported story about hunger and starvation happening in the United States, today. Brought to us by Magnolia Pictures and also, Participant Media, who was involved in other notable documentaries, such as: AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, FOOD INC and WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. Those films shed light on issues, such as the global warming, factory farming, and our education system. This time, A PLACE IN THE TABLE brings our attention to hunger, malnutrition and “food insecurity” that is plaguing 50 million American’s, 17 million whom are children, right now, yet an obesity epidemic simultaneously.
Jeff Bridges

The term, “food Insecurity” means that you may not know where or how your next meal is coming from, for you and/or the members of the household. The film examines this issue by focusing on three Americans, Barbie a single mother of two in Philadelphia, a Colorado fifth grader, named Rosie who depends on neighbors to feed her and, a Mississippi second grader, named Tremonica whose lack of access to healthy foods is yielding health issues, such as asthma and severe obesity for her age. All of these stories provide insight into everyday American’s who are scraping by, and forced to eat mainly processed foods that are lacking in nutrients. Yet, many of these same people look as though they are the opposite of hungry. How can a state like Mississippi be the state with the highest rate of obesity and also have the highest level of residents experiencing “food insecurity”?

It is questions like these, filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine as they interweave a combination of real people and recognizable faces throughout the film. The film is a high quality production, is beautifully shot and has a great original score, which makes for great viewing. But, mostly the film grabs our attention through the use of graphics, statistics and well-informed perspective’s of experts on the subject.

“I think when people hear the term hunger, they still imagine a skinny undernourished human being, they see the pictures of famine victims in the sub Sahara of Africa, that’s the image we carry around” says author, Janet Poppendieck (Sweet Charity?). Ms. Poppendieck and other experts shed a light on this surprising issue that is plaguing 1 in 6 American families, according to the USDA. 


Viewers learn about the term “food deserts,” which are not just rural areas but 70% are actually urban. These areas may have several grocery store options, but very few if any have fresh produce. The available vegetables are canned and there might be an occasional banana. Other than that, their choices are processed foods that are lacking nutrients yet have high levels of “empty calories,” feeding the obesity epidemic vicious cycle.

Activist Marion Nestle makes the point that since 1980, when the obesity issue first began, the price of fruit and vegetables has gone up 40% and the price of processed food has gone down by 40%. So if you have limited funds, then you’re going to go out and buy the most calories for the least amount of money. She goes on to talk about how this is due to the farm subsidies, and 84% of the funds going to agri-businesses, producing corn, soy, rice, cotton and wheat. Which means the government is subsidizing the basic ingredients in the processed foods that are wreaking havoc on our health. Less than 1% of subsidies go toward fruits, vegetables and whole grains because they tend to be smaller producers without the “clout” needed to be “heard” in Washington. The USDA is a massive organization in charge of too many areas, such as forestry, animal & welfare, food safety, conservation, and food and nutrition.

Oscar® winner, Jeff Bridges an advocate for hunger issues throughout his career explains, “It’s a problem that people are ashamed of acknowledging and we are in denial about it.” With Barbie, a single mother from Philadelphia echoing that hunger can be “going on right next door and you would never know because people are too afraid to about it.”

The film integrates other high profile faces, such as Silverbush’s husband, Tom Colicchio, host of “Top Chef.” We see Colicchio sit in front of Congress debating the childhood nutrition spending that goes toward school lunches. Early childhood deprivation, can reap lifelong consequences and issues, such as, cognitive, behavioral, and disease.

The film also features a great soundtrack, produced by Grammy® winner, T. Bone Burnett and collaborating two original songs by popular band, “The Civil Wars”.

A PLACE AT THE TABLE premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and has been making its rounds on the festival circuit. Now available to On Demand viewers at home, where they can get acquainted with this “under the radar” subject matter set to beautiful cinematography and wonderful soundtrack. The more films such as PLACE AT THE TABLE are made and shown, the more chance that we will become aware of the many solvable issues we have in this country if only more were aware of how truly broken a food system we have in this country.




Kim Gabelmann


Kim Gabelmann is a special correspondent to On Demand Weekly and the founder of consciousfork, a farm to table juice and lifestyle cafe in Warwick, NY. She is a marketing and business development consultant and a certified health counselor. She is the former Senior Vice President of Branded Entertainment and Partnerships for Sundance Channel and Independent Film Channel (IFC).


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