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Going hungry in the land of plenty

“A Place at the Table,” is a well reported and devastating look at hunger in rural America. Deftly combining portraits of families lacking food security, expert interviews and infographics, the film by co-directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush opens eyes, minds and hearts.

Raj Patel, author of “Stuffed and Starved,” addresses the paradoxical link between malnutrition and obesity, both signs that poor people can’t afford food they need to stay healthy. Experts detail the problem’s connection to agricultural policy, what we subsidize (commodity crop ingredients in processed foods: wheat, corn, rice and soy) and what we don’t (whole grains, fruits and vegetables).

The film also digs deep into the stories of dignified, persevering, often hardworking but underpaid people dependent on charity food banks for their next meal. It evenhandedly addresses America’s emotional and ideological tug of war between wishing to help the less fortunate and worrying that someone might be getting a free ride. Throughout, it offers resonant landscape images of a country so fertile it could easily feed its own population abundantly if national priorities favored that outcome.