Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 1:29 pm | Mostly Cloudy 61º


‘A Place at the Table’ Screening Feeds Discussion on Realities of Hunger

Fifty million Americans are “food insecure,” meaning they literally don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Half of all children in the United States need food assistance at some time. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and actor Jeff Bridges presented the film A Place at the Table at Antioch University Santa Barbara on Saturday night to highlight this reality.

The film mixes appalling statistics with the actual lives up close of American families struggling to eat, and most of these families are working families.

What many forget is that U.S. hunger was once almost eliminated by President Richard Nixon, following a CBS Reports program “Hunger in America” in 1968. We know how.

President Ronald Reagan made deep cuts in Nixon’s successful programs. His answer: charity. The result: tens of millions of hungry Americans.

When this author was a child, subsidized school lunches were available to all. Reagan forced children to show “need” by presenting a humiliating ID card at each meal.

Kathleen de Chadenedes of the Orfalea Foundation’s local School Food Initiative explained that the resulting bureaucracy is not just humiliating for children. It is also wasteful. It is as cheap to provide the meals to everyone.

Stuffed and Starved author Raj Patel explained how hunger and obesity go together. Because of subsidies for corn and wheat, it is 10 times cheaper to get calories from junk food such as chips than from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

And 23 percent of Americans live in “food deserts” with no fruits or vegetables at all. The average food stamp allocation is just $3 a day. Survival means junk food.

We meet working families who do not qualify for food stamps because they “make too much.” We meet Rosie who cannot focus in school because her stomach is always growling. Her teacher brings her foodbank bags, but it is mostly starch and sugar.

Barbie Izquierdo is in tears because she cannot offer her children basic food even though she is working full time.

She was part of a group that went to Congress in the film to ask for an increase in school lunch funding. Experts explain that child malnutrition is costing the United States far more than feeding them properly. Malnutrition in the first five years causes permanent brain damage.

Only 25 percent of children would qualify for military service now because of bad nutrition. Ironically, military readiness was why President Harry Truman started the school lunch program.

The Republican Congress grudgingly increased school lunch funding by 6 cents a meal. (The typical school meal has just 95 cents of food.) But they took half of that money from food stamps, meaning the children will just be hungrier when they go home.

But the underlying facts are even more pervasive: While top incomes have soared in recent decades, working poor wages have actually dropped.

Conservative Republican President Nixon talked about the need for full employment and food for all. Now, his views are too liberal for even the Democratic Party. That is how far this country has changed. The result is both malnutrition and obesity.

There is no shortage of wholesome food in America. Just a shortage of economic justice.

Robert Bernstein is a local photographer and frequent Noozhawk contributor.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.