The Cycle | February 26, 2013
>>> the assistance programs in the united states are very hard to qualify for. it's like either you're starving or you don't get any help. what defines starving? like, you if you don't eat for a day, are you starving? in their eyes, no. but in the way you feel, of course.
>> philadelphia single mother barb barbie, it's a constant struggle to feed her two children. she fed never to eat them canned spaghetti three days a day like she had growing up but sometimes that is the best she can do. she is not alone. 50 million people in this country are food insure, they don't know where the next meal will come from and if the automatic budget cuts take effect on friday, that number is set to skyrocket. over half a million women and children with stories like barbie's will be dropped from the nutrition program known as wic and dropped at least half a year. next guest's new documentary puts faces on the problem of hunger in america and they say it's a problem the country has solved before and we can solve again. if average americans demand it. with us now are codirectors, a place at the table premiers in theaters this friday. thank you for being with us.
>> thank you for having us.
>> laurie, there was another clip of the film that grabbed me and illustrating how difficult it is to live on what's commonly known as food stamps . let's take a look at that.
>> most of my colleagues had no idea that the average food stamp benefit is $3 a day. i had a budget and went to a supermarket. took a long time. because you have to add up every penny and has to last you for a week. and so i did it and i will tell you i was tired. i was cranky. i couldn't drink coffee. it's too expensive. there are people who are living on that food stamp aloe case 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.
>> i mean, $3 a day. you are not buying fresh fruits and vegetables. you are not buying high quality foods and so we see a link between food insecurity and obesit obesity. what sort of programs, what can we do to break that?
>> for one thing, we can take a look at the programs that work right now. there's quite a few of them but many of them as you pointed out in danger of being severely impacted by sequestration. under constant attack. these programs work. we need to fund them adequately and a matter of the highest priority but for the ethics of it and the nation's well being , our economic wellbeing and national security .
>> christie, we have a statistic about 50 million who are food insecure and, you know, i can remember in a very inflammatory way in the presidential campaign newt gingrich bringing up the acceleration of people on food stamps over four years. what's part of the dismal economy and the lack of recovery?
>> well, i think that the recent -- the recent crash and recession certainly has increased the roles of people who are relying on either food stamps or food banks to feed themselves. but frankly, it's really just drawn attention to a problem that's existed for decades and on the rise since the '80s and, you know, in the '70s we actually solved the problem through adequate funding of programs and modernizing the programs so it's really highlighting a problem that's existed for sometime.
>> quickly to follow up -- i'm sorry, toure. just curious, if we talk about $3 a day right now for food stamps , we had more generous benefits in the '70s. what were we paying snout.
>> it was a lot of programs for working in concert with one another and adequately funded to make sure that people didn't slip in to treacherous hunger terrain so i don't know the dollar amount was in the '70s but i can tell you that the food stamps lasted for a month. right now the people we have met around the country receiving snap benefits tell you two, maybe three weeks if they're lucky and then scrambling and people food insecure in the country are spending their day and their energy and their time looking for food and scrounging for food. that's time they're not working or if the case is looking for work, that's time they're not parenting. time they're not devouting to communities, churches, synagogues. it is a horrific waste of human potential to send 50 million people on a daily search for food.
>> no, i think that's absolutely right. sounds like people in a third world country or perhaps the way this animals live. i hate to say that but that's the way that animals live and the clip made my think about trying to live on food stamps for a week and how emotionally changed he was by it, how agitated he was by it. and it makes me think about the emotional impact that it has on people to live this way every day and perhaps contributing the violence we see in the communities and the anti-society in the communities.
>> the emotional anxiety around not being able to feed yourself and in particular feeding your family is very serious and certainly has lifelong consequences. we have filmed with many people who shared with us the feelings of shame that are associated with the experience of hunger and food insecurity . and i think that is something that we need to work towards addressing.
>> well, viewers of a place at the table will see famous faces. let's take a look.
>> as thinking adults, fellow parents, this an abdication of our responsibility toward kids. let's fund programs that work the raises and variety of schools can afford.
>> charity's a great thing but it's not way to end hunger. we don't fund our department of defense through charity. you know? we shouldn't, you know, see that our kids are healthy through charity, either. this is something that in our country and america, the richest country in the world, we should take care of our kids.
>> of course, that was tom and jeff bridges and laurie, i mean, everyone from those gentlemen to michelle obama and michael bloomberg shining a light on childhood obesity and an added benefit of having famous voices attached to the cause helped shine the light on it anymore?
>> i think the jury's out and we have famous faces in the film and coming out soon and we hope it brings people to the theater and if that's what it takes, great. famous people and celebrities, great chefs in the nation working really hard on this issue. but they've been working to get people to increase the charitable response and the truth is that charity, even increasing it by tenfold could not take on the problem and fix it. if we're feeding people, they're still hungry the next day and the next day until we look at the system and how it's broken and fix that.
>> if there's one thing that people could really take away from that film, if there's one thing to impress upon the country out of this film, what would it be?
>> i would say if there's one thing to take away is citizen activism works. we saw the results of what happened in the late 1960s , in particular around this issue. which is solvable. and, you know, i think that certainly in this environment today we're sort of, you know, led to believe that we don't have a voice and we can't make a difference. and on this issue, we can. and if we make our voices heard and let our politicians know, that hunger in this country is not acceptable, and get involved through our campaign, which is associated with this film, at take part.com/table you can get involved and be a part of ending
>> takepart.com/table. thank you so much for that input, that optimistic message and good luck with the film.
>> thank you.
>> thank you for having us.
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