Poster for Lori Sliverbrush and Kristi Jacobson’s documentary, A Place at the Table. Photo courtesy of takepart.com.
By Helena Kilburn
Food scarcity, hunger, obesity, and poverty are four interconnected issues that plague our nation. These are issues that should be very close to our hearts here at Sewanee because our University is situated in a region where these issues are experienced by local residents every day. To bring awareness to this issue and to spark a conversation about the topic, the Green House, the Community Engagement House (CoHo), the Healthy Hut, and Farm Club presented a screening of A Place at the Table. This touching and powerful documentary from 2012 explores the intersection of poverty, health, and hunger in the United States.
Approximately 30 students and friends gathered at Stirling’s on the night of October first to drink tea and cider, eat small snacks, and watch the documentary. The material covered in the film clearly relates to the mission of all sponsoring student organizations involved in the event, and the student leaders behind this were clearly very passionate about what everyone could learn from the viewing.
Annie Corely (C’20), co-director of the Green House, said, “A Place at the Table was a really moving film that I wish the whole campus could see. It provided perspectives that many Sewanee students and just people in general don’t get to see. Hunger is a huge problem that often times gets swept under the rug. Putting a face, name and story to the people who are struggling with hunger makes the issues more tangible and can hopefully fire up students to help tackle our country’s biggest problem.”
When this documentary was filmed, there were 50 million Americans who were facing food insecurity, with one in four children facing this issue. The film primarily follows three people struggling with this issue: Barbie, Rosie, and Tremonica. Barbie is a young single mother struggling to feed her two kids, Rosie is a young student struggling to do well in school because she is hungry, and Tremonica is a second grader struggling with health problems due to the unhealthy foods which are the only things her mother can afford. Other narratives weave throughout the film touching on school meals, food banks, governmental programs or lack thereof, and how communities come together to try and help each other when the rest of the country has turned a blind eye to this problem.
The film ends by making it clear that this is a problem which can be solved because it has been solved in the past, and that everyone “deserves a seat at the table.”
A number of the students and friends stayed after the screening finished to discuss thoughts, reactions, and also next steps that were relevant to the documentary. The main focus of this conversation was what, as students,we could do to help with this drastic problem. Wonderful suggestions of community service, collecting donations, and activism came up, but it became clear that the most pressing action here at the University was raising awareness.