[In an effort to highlight what I believe to be the important information from the program, I have edited the transcript...]
The Faces of America’s Hungry
on Moyers & Company… “A Place at the Table”
...the House of Representatives wrestled over a farm bill because members of congress continued to fight over how many billions to slash from the food stamp program...they got the farm bill through by stripping food stamps out of it completely, to be voted on some other day...again we heard all the clichés about freeloaders who are undeserving of government help, playing the system and living large at the expense of taxpayers. This movie, “A Place At The Table” breaks those stereotypes apart and shows us that hunger hits hard at people who work hard to make a living...
...Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers...Mariana Chilton...teaches public health at Drexel University and is director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. She’s also founder of Witnesses to Hunger...
...a rancher and a police officer in Colorado, each struggling to make ends meet. Believe it or not, they have to rely on the charitable food programs sponsored by the church of a local minister...
ADAM APPELHANZ in A Place at the Table:
About a month ago we had three officers, including myself, but however, due to budget constraints we’re now down to just me...I haven’t received a pay raise in four years and what I used to spend on a month in groceries now gets me about two weeks.
I have utilized Pastor Bob’s food bank...The stereotype of food banks is always for the unemployed or the disabled, people that can’t go out and get a job. That’s not always the case. Sometimes in life you just get to points where you need a little extra help.
JOEL in A Place at the Table:
Ranching is a...lot of work...But the way the economy and everything has gone south, I have had to go find another job out of the house. So I work on the ranch from 7:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon and then at 3:00 in the afternoon till 11:00 at night I go down and clean the school.
...Your kids is the main one and that’s part of the reason I did take a second job, is so I can help buy groceries and put food on the table for my kids.
BILL MOYERS: So, a cop who doesn't make enough money to meet all of his food needs and a cowboy who has to take two jobs to help feed his children...
KRISTI JACOBSON: Sadly they're not the exception, in fact they're very representative. When we were making this film we traveled all over the country and again and again met people who were working and trying to make ends meet but were not able to put food on the table...
MARIANA CHILTON: ...the press and our legislators have a certain stereotype about who's poor and who's not and this concept of the deserving poor...
...They're often working two or three jobs. Sometimes they'll have to work under the table in order to make ends meet, trying to find side jobs. They're hustling really hard.
And I see the police chief, I see the cowboy who's also taking on that second job. What I see is common among then is a loss of dignity in the work. You can actually work full time and your family is still hungry? There's a very big problem in this country that we are not valuing hard work like we used to.
MARION NESTLE in A Place at the Table: If you look at what has happened to the relative price of fresh fruits and vegetables it’s gone up by 40 percent since 1980 when the obesity epidemic first began.
In contrast, the relative price of processed foods has gone down by about 40 percent. So if you only have a limited amount of money to spend you’re going to spend it on the cheapest calories you can get and that’s going to be processed foods. This has to do with our farm policy and what we subsidize and what we don’t.
MARIANA CHILTON: Hunger and obesity are both forms of malnutrition.
...not getting the right kinds of nutrients for an active and healthy life. If you go back to the definition of food insecurity it means having enough food for an active and healthy life. So when people think about hunger they think, "Oh, it's just not enough food." But actually food insecurity which is a much broader term, much more precise, captures that type of experience where families don't have enough money for healthy and fresh food so they will, in order to stretch their dollar, they'll spend it on soda or on foods that have very high calories. Because they know that their kids are hungry, they have to be able to stretch their dollar in order to fill their own tummies and the tummies of their children.
They know it's not healthy, but they're just trying to figure out what the immediate, the immediacy of hunger. So they eat lots of high calories, salt, sodium. Those are the kinds of things that are not good for an active and healthy life. It's another form of hunger. So you can look at people who are overweight and obese and think maybe they don't have enough money for food, maybe they're anxious about where their next meal is coming from.
BILL MOYERS: You say in the film that there are 50 million people, one in six who are food insecure, who do not have enough good nutrition to thrive.
KRISTI JACOBSON: It's shocking that here in the wealthiest nation on earth we have this many people who do not have either access to healthy foods or nor can they afford it...look at why we have such a large problem, a big problem here in this country.
BILL MOYERS: ...one out of every two kids in this country at some point in their childhood as I learned from your film will be on food assistance, one out of two?
CBS NARRATOR in Hunger in America: ...In this country, the most basic human need must become a human right.
JOEL BERG in A Place at the Table: The 80’s created the myth that A. hungry people deserved it and B. well we could really fill in the gaps with the charities.
JANET POPPENDIECK in A Place at the Table: And so we had a proliferation of emergency responses, soup kitchens, food pantries moving from literally a shelf in the cupboard of the pastor’s office to an operation with regular hours.
LARRY BROWN in A Place at the Table: Something changed during that period of time. There developed this ethos that government was doing too much and more importantly, the private sector is wonderful and let’s feed people through charity.
JANET POPPENDIECK in A Place at the Table: We have basically created a kind of secondary food system for the poor in this country. Millions and millions of Americans, as many as 50 million Americans, rely on charitable food programs for some part of meeting their basic food needs.
MARIANA CHILTON in A Place at the Table: ...The churches and the community groups that do hand out food...that’s just a quick fix, that’s for today and tomorrow and maybe for next week. We call it emergency food? It’s no longer emergency food. This is called chronic use of a broken system...
JEFF BRIDGES in A Place at the Table: ...We don’t fund our Department of Defense through charity...We shouldn’t see that our kids are healthy through charity either.
KRISTI JACOBSON: ...despite all the money that's being raised, despite the food drives, despite the proliferation of these food banks and soup kitchens we still have 50 million people who are food insecure.
...food bank directors repeatedly sharing with us..."We can't do this alone. We need government to play its role." Because it should be an emergency food system...it should be complementing government programs that really address the needs of the most vulnerable.
MARIANA CHILTON: ...Food stamps or SNAP it's called, WIC, Women, Infants and Children, school breakfast and school lunch, after school feeding programs.
...in the health and well being of children and adults...their cognitive, social and emotional development is better. We know that they're less likely to be hospitalized.
...these programs we know have a tangible public health impact. There's no research that shows what kind of impact the emergency food system is having. We know that when about 30 million children are being fed every day in this country through school breakfast and school lunch, that is magnificent. And those kinds of programs need to be protected and to be promoted.
MARIANA CHILTON: ...in our research we know that food stamps do help to prevent hospitalizations, they do promote health, it does help. But the...way that the government calculates how much an adequate meal or an adequate sort of thrifty food basket costs is actually inadequate for a healthy diet. So even if you have families that are receiving the maximum allotment, as if they had no other income, they still can't make ends meet.
Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts
REP. JAMES MCGOVERN in A Place at the Table: I lived on a food stamp diet for a week along with Jo Ann Emerson from Missouri. We did so because we thought that the food stamp benefit was inadequate. Most of my colleagues had no idea that the average food stamp benefit was $3 a day.
I had my budget and I went to a supermarket and it took me an awful long time because you have to add up every penny and it has to last you for a week. And so I did it and I will tell you I, I was tired, I was cranky because I couldn’t drink coffee because coffee was too expensive. I mean there are people who are living on that food stamp allocation. And you really can’t. For us it was an exercise that ended in a week. For millions of other people in this country that’s their way of life; every day is a struggle just to eat.
MARIANA CHILTON: Suicidal ideation, so it's thinking about, "Oh, what does it matter that I live?" It's thinking about killing yourself. These are very depressing and stressful experiences to experience hunger, to see your parents struggling with that and to struggle yourself.
...we are developing a whole half of the country overall...are underpaid, undervalued, unhealthy...
Representative, Republican Representative Steven King of Iowa.
REP. STEVE KING: Handing out benefits is not an economic stimulator. But we want to take care of the people that are needy, the people that are hungry, and we’ve watched this program grow from a number that I think I first memorized when I arrived here in Congress, about 19 million people, now about 49 million people. And it appears to me that the goal of this administration is to expand the rolls of people that are on SNAP benefits. And their purpose for doing so in part is because of what the gentleman has said from Massachusetts. Another purpose for that though is just to simply expand the dependency class.
MARIANA CHILTON: ...There is no evidence that the food stamp program creates dependency.
...they're pinning the problems that we have in this country on people who are poor. If you think about people who are poor really-- you have 80 percent of people who are food insecure are actually working. That means their wages are so low that they're eligible for food stamps.
...Let's talk about corporations and businesses that pay such low wages that they depend on the United States government to add money to those wages through the Income Assistance Programs, like SNAP. So because if you take a company like Walmart, pays their workers so low that their workers are actually eligible for food stamps. Who's dependent on the U.S. government? I'd have to say it's Walmart is the welfare queen here.
KRISTI JACOBSON: ...look at how many corporations and agribusinesses are collecting subsidies out of the same government bill, the farm bill.
...there is an ethos in Congress right now that assisting those individuals who need help via the food stamp program or WIC or school meals is big government and is going to put us into debt. But providing subsidies to large agribusinesses and big corporations is just business as usual.
Somehow when we think about helping people who are poor, many of whom are working, it's there becomes this type of societal vitriol towards people who are poor as if they're not us...people who are poor are all around us. Their children are going to the same schools oftentimes. We need to really rethink about who we are as a country, what does it mean to be an American. If you think about one in five of our children living in households that are food insecure, they're just as American as the rest of us, we need to really invest in our own country and who we are.
BILL MOYERS: ...the Food Stamp Act...1964...the whole bill was only eight pages long..."To raise levels of the nutrition among low income households and to permit those households with no incomes to receive a greater share of a nation's food abundance"...