A couple of months ago,  New York Times dining writer and Cassoulet contributor Jeff Gordinier, hosted a screening and Times Talk about the new documentary, A Place at the Table. You can get a first look at some of the issues–and how to solve the problem of hunger in America–in this video, where  Jeff talks about the film with some of the people behind the film, including Jeff Bridges, musician T Bone Burnett, executive producer Tom Colicchio, directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush and Share Our Strength founder Bill Shore.

One of the things Jeff acknowledge is how silent and invisible food insecurity in America is, and how unaware he was of the true reach of the problem, especially as a food journalist.   I know he is not alone.

Some facts:

–50 millions people in American don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

–1 in 4 of those 50 million are children.

This means, of course, that  a lot of children are going off to school hungry, or sit down to an inadequate dinner at the end of the day. Chances are you know, have known, or have been one of these children. The SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps), provides an average of about $4 per day in supplemental assistance.  Could you feed your family on that budget? I’ve posted a good number of budget friendly recipes here, including many for fish tacos, alternative cuts of usually expensive fish and many simple spaghettis that would likely squeak in under budget even with a simple steamed vegetable side dish.  But this is one meal, not three.

My kids attend a school that has ongoing community service programs, with different school-wide service projects each month, and they are regularly asked to donate food to the food pantry of a local non-profit organization.  Since they’ve been in school, they’ve donated rice, tuna, canned tomatoes,  and other pantry staples to help replenish the shelves, which are always in need. I think it’s important that they know that this pantry accepts donations year round, not just at holidays, because people in our community have need year round.  We give food at the holidays, but the fact is that many people don’t need a turkey, they need help getting dinner on the table the 364 other days of the year, too. I also know, from the testimony of a friend who works directly with this group, that the need has been sharper over the last few years.

But still, we all tend to forget about food insecurity if we don’t come face to face with real hunger in our daily lives.  I know that I do.  It’s one thing to donate food. It’s another to help feed the people who are hungry. This troubling fact was thrown into high relief for me a few months ago when I was dropping off donations of clothes at another organization, only to arrive during market time, when the group offers free groceries to the very poor and homeless. It looked like a makeshift farmers market, with boxes of produce and many, many people shopping–women, men, young children in tow, older, younger, mostly brown skinned, many non-English speakers. It was a sobering scene, only minutes from my very comfortable, very well-fed neighborhood.  I would like to say the experience changed me. It didn’t. But it did make me painfully aware–that no matter what we think about buying local, organic, sustainable, hormone free food; that no matter how much we might fight to support the small farmer–there are families who still face much, much bigger problems. There are families for whom shopping at Trader Joes or Safeway is simply beyond reach.

So today, we are trying to remember–and acknowledge–this problem and diversify the conversation. Caroline & I are joining over The Giving Table and 200 other bloggers to help raise awareness about food insecurity in America. Because sometimes we need to talk about the families who aren’t getting fed.

Here’s what you can do:

1)Tell Congress that no child should go hungry. Sign and send your own letter here, then share the link.

2) Take your kids to the store with $4. Tell them they have to feed the whole family for a day.

3) Find a place to see A Place at the Table. Local showings are listed here. 

You can also watch on demand through iTunes or Amazon.

4) Spread the word, petitions the White House, write your representative, start a service project at your school….there are many ways to be involved. You can start here.

5) Post a budget-friendly recipe.

6) Tell your story.


Everyone should have a place at the table.