Jeff Bridges and Tom Colicchio are fighting hunger with ‘A Place at the Table’


placeWhen you sit and talk with passionate people, it tends to bring out the passion in you. I love talking politics, so getting to chat with author and chef turned activist Tom Colicchio about the way a bill got mangled in Congress was really an incredible experience (almost as good as when I was seated next to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at a Sundance screening and engaged with him in political chatter). In association with the release of the documentary A Place at the Table (my review of which can be found here), which talks about food insecurity in America, I was invited to attend a press day about a week ago that included a press conference with Jeff Bridges and the minds behind the doc (plus Billy Shore, who is the founder and CEO of No Kid Hungry), while also getting interview Colicchio and the co-directors/co-producers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush. What follows is the highlight of my 1 on 1 with Colicchio, Jacobson, and Silverbush, as well as a few choice quotes from the press conference (the audio for both could go up soon if all goes according to plan, though you all know what that means). I hope you enjoy, but more importantly I hope you take notice of this incredibly sad and preventable issue that too many American families are dealing with on a daily basis. If enough people make their voices heard, we can eliminate hunger, and I hope we do soon…

First up, here is the most important thing that I gathered from my interview with Colicchio, Jacobson, and Silverbush on the film and what can be done about this issue

Lori Silverbush: When we talk to politicians they say their phones aren’t ringing about this. I believe that they will listen if they get flooded with emails and texts about this. What’s lacking is not the money, we have the resources…it’s about the public will. We can give our legislators what they need, which is consensus, so they feel that they can do this and that it is the will of the people.

Next we have a few quotes from the press conference, which was a little more bullet point based than my very conversational interview (the audio of which I’m hoping to put up soon) with the folks involved

Jeff Bridges on when he got involved with this issue:

I got involved about 30 years ago. Initially it was about ending world hunger. I’d become aware of the enormous problem and learned that it was solvable…it wasn’t a matter of not having enough food, or enough money, or enough know how, it was a matter of creating political will. When I learned the facts about hunger I wanted to do more than just make a gesture, like giving a hundred bucks to scratch the guilt itch. Instead I helped found the organization End Hunger Network, then, about 20 years ago, when ketchup was considered a vegetable, I shifted my attention from world hunger to the problem here in the U.S.

Tom Colicchio on one of the problems with the current system in America:

The average person spends under five hours a week cooking for their family yet the government calculates food stamps using the Thrifty Food Plan, which assumes people have over 13 hours to cook, and only certain foods are available under the plan. It’s almost punitive to the people who rely on food stamps to feed their family…

Kristi Jacobson on the lessons of the documentary:

In addition to the health and cognitive effects that food insecurity creates, there’s also shame among those experiencing hunger or food insecurity. As Leslie Nichols, the teacher in the film said, those feelings of humiliation can stay with you for a lifetime. Barbie Izquierdo, the struggling single mom in the film, shows the anxiety and depression that moms can feel around this issue and the impact it has on their children.

Finally, here’s Bridges, Colicchio, and Billy Shore on the solution to food insecurity that this documentary hopes for:

Colicchio: Participant Media has an amazing track record of building terrific social action campaigns like with Waiting for Superman and Inconvenient Truth…

Billy Shore: Tom has testified on Capitol Hill, Jeff has met with a number of governors…

Colicchio: We know how to fix hunger. It’s not a mysterious condition that we don’t know the cause of. We just had a presidential election and the topic of hunger did not come up once, other than some people labeling Obama the food stamp president. It has not been talked about. We need to make hunger a voting issue. If politicians don’t focus on this situation soon they’re going to be labeled pro hunger. Hopefully that will force them to do something. If they feel that getting re elected is contingent on fixing this, they’ll fix it.

Bridges: This is about patriotism. If another country were treating our kids this way we’d be at war!

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!