Up | March 02, 2013
>>> right knew in the united states , the richest country in the world there are 50 million americans who do not know where their next meal will come from. almost 17 million children who simply do not have enough to eat. hunger in the united states . a societal ill that was nearly erat indicated in the 1970s . a new documentary released called "a place at the table." in the film, barbie escagerro talks about feeding a family of two.
>> 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. well, what defines starving? like if you don't eat for eye a day, are you starving? in their eyes, no. in your eyes and the way you feel, of course.
>> millions of americans do not have enough to eat. the government spent over $15 billion in 2011 alone subsidizing a food system that overproduces the worst types of food. a system that encourages the cheap processed foods laden with fats and leaves fruits and vegetables more expensive. two americas when it comes to consumption, one that consumes cheap and widely dangerous foods. and joining us is tom colicchio . top chef and founder of the colicchio restaurant. it's a pleasure to have you here.
>> thanks, chris.
>> tom, the documentary is -- you know, it's horrifying to watch this unfold. and it's moving in seeing the faces of people that are just kind of grinding along. and i came away thinking, well, what's the failure here? like what is wrong that we are doing wrong? is this broadly a problem with poverty in general, and hunger is the simpymptom? do we target hunger itself or do we need to make sure people aren't poor?
>> actually, i think both. it is a symptom of poverty but you can't target the symptom. the discussion of poverty taking on a much bigger political discussion . you start getting questions why are people living in poverty. it goes into how can we fix that. we know we can fix hunger because we fixed it before. back in 1968 there was a doc that came out, a news doc that came out called "hungry america." and it showed near starving conditions in the united states . very quickly the populous demanded that it be fixed. you had senators dole and mcgovern got together, created legislation and signed into law by richard nixon and created the modern food safety net. and until the '80s and ideologies changed. that happened before the recession and started to creep up.
>> we now have what we call supplemental assistance programs used to be called food stamps . massive expansion in how many people are using it in the wake of the great recession. one out of every two children is going to have food assistance?
>> at some point in their lives, yes, one out of two children.
>> to the point that's not enough, i guess the question is should that be bigger, should eligibility be expanded?
>> well, it should be. it's not enough. especially how you look at how food stamps are calculated. the government using something called a thrifty food plan. there's four plans that they use to sort of benchmark, how much calories or what foods you can buy. a thrifty plan, a low plan, a medium plan and high plan. it's used for things like paying alimony and child support or how much calories the military can receive. they use that only to determine the food stamps .
>> when they're budgeting allowances for calories, for the specific, the needy, you get the thrifty.
>> the thrifty. it takes into consideration, for instance, fish, they assume the only fish you're going to buy on this plan is canned tuna. they calculate that, you have more time, for some reason, i don't know, that you can cook. so the average person spends just about under five hours a week cook. where on this plan, they sort of saying that you have 13 hours to prepare a meal. and then, you know, with that comes the because you have 13 hours, you can buy other foods that take a long time to cook like beans and rice and stuff like that.
>> so there's a bunch of assumptions about how people are bowing to get by with this assistance, baked into calculating how much assistance they need that squeezes people?
>> that's correct. exactly.
>> the other aspect, and it comes through -- you spent some time on it in the film. is a lot of -- the other program is free lunches and breakfast that kids get in schools. and there's a great scene. i think we have the scene, don't we, from the " top chef " challenge to create a meal on budget constraints, take a look.
>> you'll be feeding students using the same restrictive budget that our public schools have. $2.68 per child. that's $134 for all 50 kids.
>> of that $134. i'm going to take $4 away for the $268 that the school has to serve lunch, labor and supplies, and anything to get it to the plate, $4 is a gift.
>> the bananas, despite the fact that i've been cooking them for 20 minutes , they taste like white bread . they're very starchy. i'll add sugar to break down the starch.
>> did you find you had to add more sugar because the bananas were starchy?
>> i believe there's a total of two pounds of sugar.
>> that's what happens when you we don't use good ingredients, you add a lot of sugar or fat to make them taste better.
>> that's your classic " top chef " reaction with the eyes bugging out. i just thought it was a good illustration of the way price constraints lead to food that is actually good to the person eating it.
>> exactly. the food program, it started in the late 1800s in response to children that were hungry. they knew children showing up for school couldn't focus and weren't getting good grades. and became a federal program under truman in '46. i think we need to start looking at these programs as nutrition programs. it's not a handout. you know, we send kids to school. we give them books, we give them a desk, but we don't give them food. so we're providing a meal now, but it's not a good meal. it's not a healthy meal. it's not a nutritious meal.
>> when you think of it as a nutrition program, as opposed to what?
>> people look at feeding programs whether a school lunch as a charity program. we have to look at it as sort of a tool to prepare our children to eat. there's a new study that came out by deloitte that was done by share a strength, no kid hungry. they're showing when kids east breakfast in school, their math scores go up by 17%. they have less incidence of being kinds of benefits. the school lunch program , right now, it's just not funded. that clip actually set up -- i actually testified in front of congress on behalf of the school lunch program . and the president asked for $10 billion over ten years. it gets watered down in the house to an $8 million over four years. and then $4.5 million. half of that money comes from snapp.
>> while we have record numbers of people qualifying for snapp in eligibility. by the way, the film is co-directed by your wife.
>> my wife and her partner christy jacobson.
>> i did not know this that your mom ran a school cafeteria?
>> she did, my mom ran a cafeteria in new jersey. i didn't quite know that my mom had more of a mission managing this cafeteria until i tried to get her to retire. she was in her early 60s. he said, tom, i know the kids coming into my school lunch room for breakfast and lunch, i know this is the only meal that some are eating. that kind of hit me. pie thought mom was going there for social time. i didn't reidn't realize a great mission behind it.
>> i want to talk about the food and the food that's comes from. it gives us an opportunity to spotlight the makeover of the pastry plate. we'll talk about that right after this break. i'm