Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

34 posts categorized "Film"

Hunger Lives Here. So Does Hope

Nia T. Photo
"Hope" is one of the photos featured in a Camden, N.J. Witnesses to Hunger exhibit held at a local gallery on Sept. 19, 2013. Of the work, photographer and Witnesses advocate, Nia T writes, "'Hunger lives here and so does hope.' I like that saying. That’s something. That’s deep. It means that they’re helping. They’re helping the environment. They’re helping the community." (Photo by Nia T/Witnesses to Hunger)

By Larry Hollar

It’s never easy to get bad news like yesterday's House vote to cut nearly $40 billion from SNAP. But there’s no place I would rather have been when that news broke than with the women of the Witnesses to Hunger project in Camden, N.J.

At an art gallery in downtown Camden that night, 10 mothers and grandmothers came together to tell their stories through photographs they took of their experiences with hunger, homelessness, lost jobs, and flawed approaches to public assistance. The signs of poverty are everywhere in Camden—in boarded-up houses, empty shells of businesses, depleted neighborhoods, and violence in the streets. But the stories these women told were ones of hope—that by having more capacity to speak out and witness to their realities, they believed they could influence our leaders to make better decisions that would help the children and families in Camden and throughout the nation.

Witnesses to Hunger is a participatory advocacy project of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University’s School of Public Health. Started in 2008 in Philadelphia, it has fostered projects in Harrisburg and Scranton, Pa., Boston, Baltimore, and other East Coast cities. The Center partners with the real experts on hunger—the parents and caregivers of young children who have first-hand experience with hunger and poverty. The people of Witnesses to Hunger share their expertise and create change through their roles as photographers, educators and advocates, and advisers. The Camden project has been generously supported by the Campbell Soup Company.

I spoke in Camden to witnesses Christie and Kathy, who told me of their difficulties in making ends meet, even with a nearly full-time job, and what it’s like to live in a shelter with your children after a fire destroys your home. I was struck by how many of the women, both from Camden and those present from other cities, felt a deep and empowering kinship with the other women who experience the complex struggle to overcome poverty.

One of the photographs on the wall, taken by Nia of the Camden Witnesses, was of a truck from the Food Bank of South Jersey with these words on its side: “Hunger Lives Here. So Does Hope.” The vote Congress took yesterday to slash SNAP by $40 billion made it even more certain that hunger will continue to live in Camden. But as I spent that same moment with the women of Camden who are witnesses to what change can look like, it’s clear to me that hope wins.

Action: View the photographs of the Camden and other Witnesses to Hunger projects at www.witnessestohunger.org. Tell your members of Congress that deep cuts to SNAP are unacceptable, and urge them to protect programs that support low-income people in our nation and world during upcoming budget debates.

Larry Hollar is senior regional organizer in Bread for the World's eastern hub.

'A Place at the Table' Gets a Mention on the House Floor


In February, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) started his series of End Hunger Now speeches on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. So far, he has covered everything from SNAP to the link between obesity and hunger. Today, in his fifth floor speech, McGovern talked about the documentary A Place at the Table

"The truth is that hunger is solvable—we have the means, the infrastructure and the food to end hunger," he said. "We just don’t have the political will to do so. This point is delivered in a clear, concise and emotional way in a documentary that is in theaters now. Called A Place at the Table, this film, at its core, may be a simple story of hunger in America, [but] it’s really an emotional tale about how people are struggling with hunger in America. About piecing just enough together to make ends meet—day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month."

McGovern talked at length about the film's social action campaign, of which Bread for the World is a partner, and said it marks "the first time in recent memory that there is a dedicated effort to end hunger tied directly to a mainstream film that is nationally garnering critical acclaim."

"[I]’m pleased and impressed that a strong, coordinated social action plan accompanies the film. This comprehensive plan can be found online at www.takepart.com/table, and I encourage everyone to take a look at this website.

"Once there, people will be able to find important resources, including ways to access food assistance if they need help; an online gallery of artists, politicians, teachers, writers, and business and community leaders who once needed help through SNAP—the primary federal anti-hunger safety program; and a list of partners who are helping combat hunger through this film," McGovern continued. "Most importantly, it outlines ways that people can help make hunger a national priority now and it includes specific actions that people can take in their communities."

Watch McGovern's full speech below. Check to see if A Place at the Table is showing at a theater in your area, or watch the film on iTunes or OnDemand. You can urge your members of Congress to make ending hunger a priority through the film's social action campaign or Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters campaign. 

Another Hunger Games Movie, Another Opportunity to Engage Young People

Catching_fireBy Sarah Godfrey

If you follows movie news, you've probably noticed that publicity for Catching Fire, the sequel to the 2012 film The Hunger Games, has begun in full force. Fans are chatting about the casting choices and movie posters  and trading bits of gossip about the film, scheduled to be released later this year. If you know a young person who is excited about Catching Fire, you have an opening to talk to them about issues of hunger and poverty. 

Around the time of the last film's release, Oxfam and Imagine Better launched the "Hunger is NOT a Game" campaign as a way to educate Hunger Games fans about international food justice and spur them to action. Whether there will be another large-scale social action campaign around Catching Fire remains to be seen, but the movie (and the book) offer an opportunity to introduce adolescents and teens to anti-hunger efforts. The books and the movies in the series all center around  a young woman who leads an uprising against a system that has kept her people impoverished and starving for generations. The works fall under the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy, so there are special effects and outlandish costumes, and, yes, some violence, but the core message is about fighting injustice and challenging the status quo.

The trilogy's key messages are especially timely now, as people suffering from hunger and poverty are particularly vulnerable, thanks to the sequester and ongoing budget negotiations in Congress

Catching Fire isn't out until later this year, but it's not too early to start a conversation about its themes. Consider reading the books yourself, or watching the first movie, and talking to an adolescent or teen about the poverty and hunger described in the trilogy (there are a ton of discussion guides about the books available online,  most of which include questions about class, poverty, and hunger). For teens and older adolescents, consider showing them the documentary A Place at the Table as a way to explain that hunger isn't something faced by fictional young people in a faraway land, but a very real problem that may be affecting some of their friends and classmates. Consult Bread for the World's companion discussion guide "No Place at the Table" for help. If a kid is impressed by the efforts of The Hunger Games’ protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, to take on the Capitol and fight for a world in which everyone has enough to eat, he or she should be excited by the real-life equivalent: help a young person write a letter to Congress to ask for adequate funding for programs that address hunger and help lift people out of poverty.

Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.

VIDEO: "A Place at the Table" Directors on "The Daily Show"

Jon Stewart isn't a man who is easily shocked, but on last night's episode of The Daily Show, the host seemed stunned to learn that 17 million children in American go to bed hungry each night.

Stewart talked about hunger with guests Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, the directors of A Place at the Table, which opens on March 1. Silverbush and Jacobson talked about their documentary, dispelled common myths surrounding food assistance in America, and spread the word that hunger in this country can be eradicated.

"This is really solveable," said Silverbush. "This is one of those issues of our time that we can fix, we know how."

The directors also urged the public to get involved in the fight to end hunger, and to engage their members of Congress through the film's social action campaign, which is cosponsored by Bread for the World.

"We've been talking to legislators about this for two years and they're saying 'Our phones aren't ringing, we're not getting texts, we're not tweets on this, once we do, we're gonna start to change how we vote,'" said Silverbush.

Check out the interview above.

Go to the Movies: See "A Place at the Table"

By Rev. David Beckmann

APATT movie poster_blog_resizeThe national discussion around hunger is changing — and your work is driving that change!

More than 6,800 of you have signed our petition asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger. During his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his proposals to help people climb out of poverty. But the March 1 sequester threatens WIC and poverty-focused development assistance, which are not exempt from deep automatic cuts.

These events make the presidential petition more important. Thank you so much for your support. We still have much to do, but the next step is easy: go see a movie.

This Friday, March 1, the documentary A Place at the Table will open in theaters nationwide. The film, from the producers of An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc., focuses on hunger in America.

A Place at the Table shows that we defeated hunger in the past and that we can do it again.

Please see the film—and invite your friends, co-workers, classmates, and family members to watch it with you. Click here to find a theater near you. A Place at the Table will also be available through iTunes and on-demand on March 1.

Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters is also called "A Place at the Table" and launches on March 1. Together, the film and our Offering of Letters campaign will magnify our focus on ending hunger through changes in public policy.

Watch the movie, discuss it, and spread the word about the importance of ending hunger and poverty. A hunger-free world is within reach. God is at work in our midst, preparing an abundant table where all are welcome. With your voice we will convince our nation’s leaders to ensure all people a place at the table.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Setting Two Tables

February 2013 e-Newsletter

Barbie Izquierdo and her children are profiled in the new movie, A Place at the Table. To see a preview of the movie and learn more about "A Place at the Table: Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters," visit www.bread.org/ol.

On March 1, 2013, Bread for the World will be involved in setting places at two tables.

One is "A Place at the Table: Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters."

The other is a new feature-length documentary, A Place at the Table, which shows the persistence of hunger in the United States.

Together, the two "Tables" represent a united effort to end hunger by raising awareness and advocating for policy changes. By coordinating our Offering and Letters with the social action campaign of the movie, Bread for the World will be promoting a national dialogue about how to best secure the leadership, commitment, and unity to end hunger in our country and abroad.

Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters is the most sophisticated campaign we have ever conducted, focusing on both the White House and Congress.

For the first time, we are seeking greater leadership from the White House. We want President Barack Obama to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger at home and abroad. Beside regular communication with White House officials, we are asking our members to petition the president. We hope to generate at least 100,000 signatures.

As in past Offerings of Letters, we will continue to focus on policy makers in Congress. Domestic and international programs that help hungry and poor people continue to be threatened by budget cuts. Through handwritten letters, personal email messages, in-person visits, and phone calls, we will be asking our legislators to protect funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps); the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA).

We are also asking legislators to support a national commitment to reduce hunger through the tax code. We want Congress to preserve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) while raising revenue to support anti-hunger programs.

Finally, we are asking Congress to work with the president on a plan to end hunger.

"The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put love thy neighbor at the center of our legislative agenda," said seminary student and Hunger Justice Leader Derick Dailey in response to the two-pronged Offering of Letters.

This reality will be apparent to many people around the country after they watch the new documentary, A Place at the Table. When film directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush approached Bread for the World board member Terry Meehan, seeking support for the film, the rest of the board quickly decided that this was an opportunity to speed up change.

The filmmakers were inspired by the public reaction that was generated by the 1968 CBS Special, Hunger in America. In response to that television program, Congress passed bipartisan laws that all but eradicated U.S. hunger in the 1970s. "We figured that if it worked once, maybe it could work again," said Jacobson.

National distribution of A Place at the Table became possible when Participant Media came on board to finance the film, followed by Magnolia Pictures as the distributor. It will open in theaters throughout the country on March 1 and will be available on-demand (through iTunes, Amazon.com, and other outlets).

We urge all Bread members to see this film. We have resources to help you study the issues raised in the film, as well as materials to distribute at screenings. You can preorder them from Bread's online store or by calling 800-822-7323.

Bread’s association with Participant Media does not end when the film hits the theaters. We are also partners in the social campaign accompanying the film. Through A Place at the Table’s social action campaign, Bread members will have more avenues for action—at both the national and local levels. Bread for the World and Participant Media will regularly ask our advocates to take various actions throughout this campaign. To join the campaign, text FOOD to 77177.

"Jesus tells us to give them something to eat, and the film shows that our churches do a good job of providing food through food pantries and soup kitchens," said Rev. David Beckmann. "It also shows that this will never be enough. We need to demand that our government get serious about ending hunger."

[This piece originally appeared in the February edition of Bread's e-newsletter.]

Director Linda Midgett Talks About 'The Line'


Photo: John, a former banker who is one of the subjects of The Line, shops for himself and his three children at a food bank. (Film still from The Line)

By Sarah Godfrey

When Emmy-winning filmmaker Linda Midgett set out to find subjects for The Line, her short film documenting what it means to live at, or below, the poverty line in America, she had no trouble finding people dealing firsthand with hunger and poverty. What was difficult, Midgett says, was finding subjects willing to talk about those difficulties in front of her camera.

"I think it’s easy to find people who are struggling in these ways, but I think what was the bigger challenge was finding people willing to share their struggles publicly," she says. "I talked to food pantries, to various organizations, I talked to the Salvation Army. A lot of people I reached out to were not willing to go on camera. 

"I don’t say that as a criticism," she continues. "But, for me, it highlighted how much shame is associated with being in poverty."

The Line goes a long way toward addressing the shame and the stereotypes that often surround poverty. The film tracks four subjects: John, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago and, after losing his six-figure job in the banking industry, finds himself dependent on food banks to feed his family; Sheila, a Chicago resident who grew up in poverty, escaped its clutches, and finds herself again facing financial difficulty after a debilitating accident; James, who moves from New York City to North Carolina in search of work, and still barely scrapes by, despite working long, hard hours; and Ronald, a Gulf Coast shrimper whose livelihood has been affected by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

The Line was funded by a partnership of organizations, including Sojourners, World Vision, and Bread for the World. The film premieres tonight, at church viewings around the country, at 8 p.m., eastern time. 

One of the things that separates The Line from other films tackling issues of hunger and poverty in America is the fact that Midgett allows the subjects to tell their stories themselves, without interference.

"I felt like one of the most important things I was trying to do with this film was to break down stereotypes of who poor people are, what they look like, what they sound like, and the best way to do that was just to let them talk," Midgett says. "As individuals, they're all so compelling, and have such unique perspectives, just the process of listening to them, in and of itself, breaks down stereotypes," Midgett continues. "Instead of thinking of 'poor people,' it becomes, 'oh, that’s Sheila, that’s John.' The more you know people by name, and know they're human beings, not statistics, the more it changes your heart."

Midgett says she was surprised by what a diverse cross-section of society her subjects represent—one of the most surprising things she learned while working on the film was that the rate of poverty in the suburbs is on the rise.

"I was not personally familiar with that info, so when I came across that, I said, 'whoa.' To see food pantries in these formerly strong middle-to-upper class neighborhoods, that really was shocking," she says. "The first [subject] in the film, John, he was a former president of a bank, and when the banking industry imploded, he got caught in that, and decided to make a career change to become a schoolteacher. His mom was a teacher, his grandmother—it was a noble profession and he felt drawn to it, but he wasn't able to find a full-time teaching job.

"He's in DuPage County, Illinois, one of wealthiest counties in the country—definitely in the Midwest—and he's feeding his three children with food from food pantries, living off of $12,000 per year. That was crazy for me—I went to Wheaton College in DuPage County, I know DuPage County as this very, very affluent community, and now the poverty rate there has skyrocketed, and all sorts of people are in [John's] position now."

Midgett hopes that, after the film's premiere tonight, communities will continue to share it, hold screenings at churches, and use it as a tool to discuss poverty going into the November elections and beyond. "The plan is to keep getting it out there, keep making it available to people, and hopefully people find it valuable and inspirational enough to keep sharing it," Midgett says.

The Line premieres at 8 p.m. ET tonight, at various church viewing parties scheduled around the country. Find one close to you here. If you'd like to host a screening after tonight, consider holding an adult forum and discussing the film along with the Circle of Protection presidential candidate videos. Contact your regional organizer for more information.

Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.

African-American Voices for Africa: Behind the Scenes of Our Public Service Announcement

Screen grab from our African-American Voices for Africa PSA video. (Shot by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Laura Elizabeth Pohl

"I've got an idea," my colleague Racine Tucker-Hamilton said to me, excitement lighting up her face. "What do you think about producing a public service announcement?"

A television network had been asking Racine if we here at Bread had a PSA about our African-American Voices for Africa (AAVA) initiative, which aims to get African-Americans involved in advocating for policies that eradicate hunger, poverty, and disease in Africa. I loved Racine's idea and had seen plenty of PSAs but never produced one myself.

We both started by studying classic PSAs, like "Brain on Drugs" and "You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy" from the '80s. We read articles about producing effective PSAs. And most importantly, we found other creative people to work with, including Robert Wesley Branch, a radio talk show host and former producer for the Discovery Channel, TLC, BET and TV One.

And so began our seven-week journey into creating a 30-second public service announcement (PSA) raising awareness about AAVA. Seven weeks might sound like a long time but it's not when you still have other work to do.

Laura Pohl videotapes interview with Bread staffer Lamont Thompson and Racine Tucker-Hamilton monitors audio. (Photo: Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World)

We went through almost a dozen script revisions (who was it that said, "I would have written a shorter letter but I didn't have the time"?—writing short really is difficult). Our overall concept changed twice. We enlisted our New York-based colleague Derrick Boykin to narrate the piece and found an audio producer there, Natasha Del Toro, who recorded his narration for us. Two D.C.-based colleagues, Kristen Archer and Lamont Thompson, agreed to the only two speaking parts in the video. I spent hours researching music (jazz, classical, trance, rock—I listened to it all). I sifted through dozens of film clips I had previously shot in various African countries. Then I edited through the very best ones, cutting out short snippets that flowed well together, fit with our positive message and reinforced the narration. In all, there were five PSA versions before we settled on the final one.

We had such fun producing this piece. I often say the best work comes out of collaborating with smart, creative people. This is definitely the case with our PSA. Watch below and let us know what you think.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World.

Bread Film to Be Shown at United Nations Association Film Festival


Siblings Ricky Horton (left) and Sherily Shepard (right) are former tobacco farmers who now grow produce in Blackwater, VA. Screen grab from the short film "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Health Food to Your Plate."

by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

I pulled the envelope out of my work mailbox, noted its thinness and thought, "A rejection from the United Nations Assocation Film Festival. Ah well."

I didn't open the letter for a few hours and when I did, what a surprise. "In Short Supply: Small Farmers and the Struggle to Deliver Healthy Food to Your Plate,” was accepted into the festival. It will be on the big screen in the San Francisco Bay Area sometime between October 18-28 (exact date TBD). Great news for Bread for the World and the three of us who collaborated on the film: Brad Horn, multimedia storyteller now working at the Washington Post; Molly Marsh, Bread's former managing editor; and me.

The film illustrates some of the uncertainties small American farmers face, from unpredictable weather to changing immigration laws. Through the stories of Ricky Horton and Sherilyn Shepard, siblings who grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables in southwestern Virginia, the short film aims to show how the American food system poses obstacles to delivering healthy foods to American homes.

You can watch the story below—and, of course, in the Bay Area this fall. Hope to see you there!

Laura-elizabeth-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is the multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can find her on Twitter at @lauraepohl.


Jane's Beans: Grown With Hard Work and Foreign Assistance


20110519_JaneSebbi_PHOTOS_1008FbThe hoe falls in a rhythmic “thud, thud, thud” as Jane Sabbi and her sister-in-law hack at the undergrowth on Sabbi’s shaded, fertile vegetable farm. The sun is still rising in Kamuli, Uganda, and Sabbi has already cooked breakfast, washed the dishes, cleaned the goat and pig pens, and laid out several pounds of beans to dry. Still ahead: pounding amaranth, harvesting bananas, shelling beans, feeding the animals, and cooking lunch for her husband and seven children.

“I want to work hard, get enough money to educate the children to the university level and attain degrees,” said Sabbi. “That’s my hope and desire in life.”

Jane learned to plant more nutritious crops after joining a Ugandan nonprofit farming collective that receives U.S. foreign assistance. Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 400 million since 2009. This is mostly the result of much hard work by poor people themselves, but U.S. foreign assistance has played an important role. Watch the video below to see how Jane Sabbi is working to create a brighter future for her family.

Photo caption: Jane Sabbi, a farmer in Uganda, learned to plant more nutritious crops like these beans after joining a Ugandan nonprofit farming collective that receives U.S. foreign assistance. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

Laura-pohlLaura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow her on Twitter at @lauraepohl.


+Send an email to Congress now and ask them to protect funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance.

+Learn more about the mini-campaign on poverty-focused foreign assistance for the 2012 Offering of Letters.

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