Barbie and kids in "A Place at the Table." (Magnolia Pictures )
In the essential documentary "A Place at the Table," co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush effectively touch on a wide range of intersecting issues that contribute to one startling statistic: One in six Americans is unsure where their next meal will come from.
The filmmakers vividly illustrate the power and depth of the long-spiraling problem of "food insecurity" by immersing us in the hardscrabble lives of a cross section of our nation's poor. Whether it's Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother of two; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader sharing a cramped home with her parents and grandparents; or Tremonica, an overweight and underfed 7-year-old from Mississippi; they're all products of a sociopolitical system riddled with head-scratching contradiction and conflict over the plight of hunger.
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In addition to such compellingly real moments as young Rosie's story about daydreaming of food and Tremonica's devoted teacher introducing her needy students to the wonders of honeydew melon, the film provides pointed input from a variety of hunger experts and advocates including actor Jeff Bridges, "Top Chef's" Tom Colicchio (Silverbush's husband) and nutrition policy leader Marion Nestle.
Though the big question remains — that is, how can so many Americans exist without enough to eat in a country with more than enough food? — "Table" could prove a vital tool in the campaign toward a widespread solution.
"A Place at the Table." MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements and brief mild language. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. At Landmark's Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.
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