BILL MOYERS: Welcome. The summer blitz of blockbuster movies has arrived. Super heroes or lesser mortals with excellent motor skills are here to save the Earth from: super villains, asteroids, aliens or other disasters, natural in nature but probably induced by global warming.

Yes, it’s another summer of excess and escapism with the thrills and chills of Hollywood scaring us down to our popcorn, yet always with a happy ending. Meanwhile, back here in the real world, where we actually live, the best film of the summer isn’t an epic tale of horror or adventure but an eye-opening, heart-moving and mind-expanding reminder that millions of people in this richest country in the world, working men and women and their children, don't have enough to eat. The film’s called A Place at the Table and it's one of the best documentaries I've seen in years.

Fifty million Americans, one in six, go hungry. And yet the House of Representatives can’t pass a farm bill because our members of Congress continue to fight over how many billions to slash from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. Once again we’re hearing all the clichés about freeloaders who are undeserving of government help, playing the system and living large at the expense of taxpayers. This movie,A Place at the Table breaks those stereotypes apart and shows us that hunger hits hard at people who work hard to make a living. Don’t miss this one, it’s real life.

With me is Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers. You’ve seen her work on public television, HBO, ABC, Lifetime, and other TV networks. Mariana Chilton is here too. She teaches public health at Drexel University and is director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. She’s also founder of Witnesses to Hunger, a group featured prominently in A Place at the Table.

In this excerpt from the film, we meet a rancher and a police officer in Colorado, each struggling to make ends meet. Believe it or not, they have to rely on the charitable food programs sponsored by the church of a local minister, Pastor Bob Wilson.

ADAM APPELHANZ in A Place at the Table: About a month ago we had three officers, including myself, but however, due to budget constraints we’re now down to just me. It was always kind of a prideful thing that I never needed anybody’s help. Unfortunately, I haven’t received a pay raise in four years and what I used to spend on a month in groceries now gets me about two weeks.

I have utilized Pastor Bob’s food bank. The way it makes me feel, it’s, it’s very humiliating. Well I correct that; it’s not humiliating, it’s very grounding. The stereotype of food banks is always for the unemployed or the disabled, people that can’t go out and get a job. That’s not always the case. Sometimes in life you just get to points where you need a little extra help.

JOEL in A Place at the Table: Ranching is a good part of life. It’s a lot of work but it’s an honest, actually, it’s an honest trade. But the way the economy and everything has gone south, I have had to go find another job out of the house. So I work on the ranch from 7:00 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon and then at 3:00 in the afternoon till 11:00 at night I go down and clean the school.

It’s a good job. It’s close to home. There’s a lot that you worry about. Your kids is the main one and that’s part of the reason I did take a second job, is so I can help buy groceries and put food on the table for my kids.

Come on dogs…

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to you both.

MARIANA CHILTON: Thank you for having us.


BILL MOYERS: So, a cop who doesn't make enough money to meet all of his food needs and a cowboy who has to take two jobs to help feed his children, are they truly representative or was this just a filmmaker's good luck?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Sadly they're not the exception, in fact they're very representative. When we were making this film we traveled all over the country and again and again met people who were working and trying to make ends meet but were not able to put food on the table. So I think what the sort of filmmaker's luck or hard work paid off in that these are people who might not be willing to share their story.

But we filmed in Collbran because it was a town where the pastor, Bob, was working really hard to remove that stigma that people feel around, around admitting and then getting help. And so that helped us because we were welcomed into the community.

And you know, I remember the first time I met the police chief and I met him first on the phone and then in person and I thought he's probably not going to share this story on-camera, but it's still important to understand. And then he said, "Absolutely." And that was really, really I think a victory for the film in that we were able to show this very important group that are experiencing hunger and food insecurity but that are not, it's very hidden.

BILL MOYERS: What do you take from their stories? Because you worked with a totally different population.

MARIANA CHILTON: I'm not so sure they're that different, that's the thing. I think that when you were saying before about stereotypes I think that in the press and our legislators have a certain stereotype about who's poor and who's not and this concept of the deserving poor. But the women that I work with through Witnesses to Hunger are very hardworking.

They're excellent mothers, excellent parents. They want the best for their kids. They're often working two or three jobs. Sometimes they'll have to work under the table in order to make ends meet, trying to find side jobs. They're hustling really hard.

And I see the police chief, I see the cowboy who's also taking on that second job. What I see is common among then is a loss of dignity in the work. You can actually work full time and your family is still hungry? There's a very big problem in this country that we are not valuing hard work like we used to.

BILL MOYERS: There's a young woman in the film who says quote, "Hunger could be right next door and you would never know because people are too afraid to talk about it." Why are people afraid to talk about it, Dr. Chilton?

MARIANA CHILTON: Well, I think there's an enormous amount of shame that goes, especially when… I work with moms of little children, young children. And there's an enormous amount of shame that they experience that they, may run out of money before they can get more food. And it really tests their sense of motherhood, their sense of citizenship, of belonging. And it's very isolating. And I think that when the moms that I speak with, they talk about when they were children they, too, were hungry and they were always told, "Don't talk about it. Don't let anybody know how hard it is. Always put on a good face. Always look good," you know, it’s about being able to be in the world and be treated with a sense of dignity and respect. So they would often hide their own experiences of hunger or hide the experience that they can't feed their own children.

BILL MOYERS: Do we sometimes pass hunger down as a legacy to the next generation?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh yes, we do. It gets transferred from generation to generation. Now, it also happens that during an economic downturn when there are not enough good paying jobs of course hunger will skyrocket. But I think that when people don't realize that hunger is very damaging to children, to, especially to young children. Food insecurity affects the cognitive, social and emotional growth of very young children.

That means that by the time they arrive to kindergarten they're not ready for school. That means that when they're in school if they're hungry they won't be able to concentrate on what they're learning and they won't do as well on their math and their reading tests. That means they won't be as successful, won't get a good paying job so that when they have children they, too, will be poor. So poverty is an experience that's really seared into the bodies and brains of children.

BILL MOYERS: What happens to someone who gets too little nutrition early in life?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh, it's extremely important. If you think about what's happening in the first three years of life the brain is growing so fast. They're the most important years of human development. So every moment those are the building blocks of good cognitive, social and emotional development. Neurons are growing and pruning and very active. 700 neurons are growing a second for an infant. It’s an important window of human development.

So any type of nutritional depravation during this time has a severe impact on the brain even if it's just episodic, even if it happens once or twice a month those are moments of lost opportunity to be able to interact with their family and their environment, to pay attention and to learn something new which helps to grow more neurons.

So again it affects the cognitive, social and emotional development. It creates a certain kind of a stress on the child that's very toxic. And we know that children who experience that kind of toxic stress can't learn as well, can't learn as fast. And you can turn that around with food assistance programs, with a program called WIC, Women, Infants and Children or the food stamp program. The best investment of our dollars in this country is investing in very young children and their families because again those are the most important times when a child’s brain is growing. So for every one dollar that you spend on a child you make seven dolalrs back when they become an adolescent. It's a beautiful investment.

BILL MOYERS: Kristi has a remarkable profile, portrait in the film of a young girl named, I think her name's Rosie…

ROSIE in A Place at the Table: I struggle a lot and most of the time it’s because my stomach is really hurting. My teacher tells me to get focused and she told me to write focus on my little sticker and every time I look at it and I’m like oh I’m supposed to be focusing. I start yawning and then I zone out and I’m just looking at the teacher and I look at her and all I think about is food. So I have these little visions in my eyes. Sometimes when I look at her I vision her as a banana so she goes like a banana and everybody in the class is like apples or oranges and then I’m like, oh, great.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me about Rosie.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Rosie is an incredible young girl. And I think that what struck me so much about Rosie is that her story sort of embodied, everything about this issue which is that while she's experiencing this hunger and food insecurity it's affecting her self-esteem, it's affecting her ability to learn which is very upsetting. But at the same time she has this incredible spirit which gives you this, you know some feeling of hope and inspiration. So she's just an incredible young girl.

BILL MOYERS: And that story is replicated in your experience?

MARIANA CHILTON: Oh, very much so, very common. And I think what people forget is that, you think you can somehow see hunger, you can't look at Rosie and see oh, she's hungry. So where do you see it? You see it in school performance, their ability to get along with others, their ability to pay attention for children of school age.


MARIANA CHILTON: And attendance. But also for really young children where do you see it? You see it in the increased hospitalizations, showing up more to the emergency room when they don't-- with preventable diseases, or preventable exacerbation of asthma.

This, you know, if we could think about poverty during childhood as a type of a disease, if we could pay as much attention to poverty for children as we pay attention to infectious disease we might be able to do something in this country.

BILL MOYERS: The film makes dramatically clear the relationship between malnutrition and obesity.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Step up on there. Step up on the table right there and I’ll be with you in just a second. What grade you in?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Second.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Second? You’re in the second grade? How old are you?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Fixing to be eight.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Fixing to be eight… Alright. And you’ve got asthma? Okay. Do you ever have problems with shortness of breath when you’re outside playing or anything?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: I have to stop playing to take a deep breath.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Okay. What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: I didn’t eat.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: You didn’t eat breakfast this morning? Okay. When you get home in the afternoon do you eat a snack? What do you eat?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Chips.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Chips? What else, baby? What do you drink?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Pop.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Pops. Okay. Do you have any other snacks besides chips you could eat?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Cookies.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Kisses?

TREMONICA in A Place at the Table: Cookies.

MISS. CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROJECT NURSE in A Place at the Table: Cookies. Cookies and chips, okay... Well maybe you could ask mom to start buying you some – some carrots and some celery and maybe some apples. You could slice some apples up; that’d be good, hm?

RAJ PATEL in A Place at the Table: A lot of people think there is a yarning gap between hunger on the one end and obesity on the other. In fact, they’re neighbors and the reason that they happen often at the same time and often in the same family, in the same person is because they are both signs of having insufficient funds to be able to command food that you need to, to stay healthy.


MARION NESTLE in A Place at the Table: If you look at what has happened to the relative price of fresh fruits and vegetables it’s gone up by 40 percent since 1980 when the obesity epidemic first began.

In contrast, the relative price of processed foods has gone down by about 40 percent. So if you only have a limited amount of money to spend you’re going to spend it on the cheapest calories you can get and that’s going to be processed foods. This has to do with our farm policy and what we subsidize and what we don’t.

BILL MOYERS: Help me understand the connection between hunger and obesity.

MARIANA CHILTON: Hunger and obesity are both forms of malnutrition.


MARIANA CHILTON: Meaning not, it means not getting the right kinds of nutrients for an active and healthy life. If you go back to the definition of food insecurity it means having enough food for an active and healthy life. So when people think about hunger they think, "Oh, it's just not enough food." But actually food insecurity which is a much broader term, much more precise, captures that type of experience where families don't have enough money for healthy and fresh food so they will, in order to stretch their dollar, they'll spend it on soda or on foods that have very high calories. Because they know that their kids are hungry, they have to be able to stretch their dollar in order to fill their own tummies and the tummies of their children.

They know it's not healthy, but they're just trying to figure out what the immediate, the immediacy of hunger. So they eat lots of high calories, salt, sodium. Those are the kinds of things that are not good for an active and healthy life. It's another form of hunger. So you can look at people who are overweight and obese and think maybe they don't have enough money for food, maybe they're anxious about where their next meal is coming from.

BILL MOYERS: You say in the film that there are 50 million people, one in six who are food insecure, who do not have enough good nutrition to thrive.

KRISTI JACOBSON: It's shocking that here in the wealthiest nation on earth we have this many people who do not have either access to healthy foods or nor can they afford it.

BILL MOYERS: What does it say that one out of every two kids in this country at some point in their childhood as I learned from your film will be on food assistance, one out of two?

KRISTI JACOBSON: I see a country in crisis. And it's a crisis that we need to address and we need political leadership and policies that tackle this problem dead on. And when we were making the film we looked to a film that aired on CBS in 1968 called “Hunger in America.”

CBS NARRATOR in Hunger in America: Food is the most basic of human needs.

KRISTI JACOBSON: That showed the nation shocking conditions and children that were starving right.

CBS NARRATOR in Hunger in America: But man can’t remain alive without food. We’re talking about ten million Americans. In this country, the most basic human need must become a human right.

KRISTI JACOBSON: And citizens reacted. And what they did though and part of this had to do with the reporting at the time, was they demanded legislative response. They demanded that their politicians take responsibility and address the problem. And I think that today we have, you know, every maybe once a year around the holidays there are portraits of the hungry in America.

But instead of pointing to political solutions they're often pointing to a charitable response as the solution. And I think that is a really also significant cause for how we have gotten to the point where one in six are food insecure.

BILL MOYERS: You have a sequence in the film that drives home the reliance on charity and the conclusion that it's not enough. Let's take a look at that.

JOEL BERG in A Place at the Table: The 80’s created the myth that A. hungry people deserved it and B. well we could really fill in the gaps with the charities.

JANET POPPENDIECK in A Place at the Table: And so we had a proliferation of emergency responses, soup kitchens, food pantries moving from literally a shelf in the cupboard of the pastor’s office to an operation with regular hours.

LARRY BROWN in A Place at the Table: Something changed during that period of time. There developed this ethos that government was doing too much and more importantly, the private sector is wonderful and let’s feed people through charity.

JANET POPPENDIECK in A Place at the Table: We have basically created a kind of secondary food system for the poor in this country. Millions and millions of Americans, as many as 50 million Americans, rely on charitable food programs for some part of meeting their basic food needs.


MARIANA CHILTON in A Place at the Table: That’s something that’s extremely important. The churches and the community groups that do hand out food are doing an incredible service to this country and to the children that are experiencing hunger, but that’s just a quick fix, that’s for today and tomorrow and maybe for next week. We call it emergency food? It’s no longer emergency food. This is called chronic use of a broken system for which people cannot be held accountable.


JEFF BRIDGES in A Place at the Table: Charity is a great thing, but it’s not the way to end hunger. We don’t fund our Department of Defense through charity, you know. We shouldn’t, you know, see that our kids are healthy through charity either.

BILL MOYERS: So Americans responded with "a thousand points of light" in the first Bush administration. But you say it's not enough?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Well, it's not enough because despite all of that, despite all the money that's being raised, despite the food drives, despite the proliferation of these food banks and soup kitchens we still have 50 million people who are food insecure.

And what we've found both during the making of the film and in fact since showing the film, you know, food bank directors repeatedly sharing with us, you know, "We can't do this alone. We need government to play its role." Because it should be an emergency food system, as Mariana says in the film. And it should be complementing government programs that really address the needs of the most vulnerable.

MARIANA CHILTON: I would like to really draw your attention to the impact that the emergency food system has compared to the government food assistance programs. What emergency food can do is about this much, about 5 percent of dealing with the problem, this much. What does the federal government do with the nutrition assistance? Food stamps or SNAP it's called, WIC, Women, Infants and Children, school breakfast and school lunch, after school feeding programs.

Those programs we know make a tangible difference in the health and wellbeing of children and adults. So we know that if families are receiving food stamps or SNAP Benefits their cognitive, social and emotional development is better. We know that they're less likely to be hospitalized.

The same thing goes for WIC. We also know that WIC can reduce the stress that moms often feel when they're a new mom and they're very poor. So these programs we know have a tangible public health impact. There's no research that shows what kind of impact the emergency food system is having. We know that when about 30 million children are being fed every day in this country through school breakfast and school lunch, that is magnificent. And those kinds of programs need to be protected and to be promoted.

BILL MOYERS: There's a young woman in the film, Barbie Izquierdo. She was a year looking for a job. She had food stamps while she was doing so. Then she got work. And yet as a result of getting work she no longer qualified for food stamps or subsidized childcare and her children could therefore no longer receive breakfast or lunch at daycare.

BARBIE IZQUIERDO in A Place at the Table: Anyone can sit there and tell you I’ve been through this, I’ve been through that, I got through it. Yes, I’ve been through this, I’ve been through that, I got through it, but if you’re open my fridge I’m there again. Five days into the month. And I’m going to be there next month and the month after that. It gets tiring.

When I was on food stamps I didn’t have to worry about my kids not eating. It was just how can I make it stretch, you know… I might have to take a little bit from this day. It was more about balancing everything where now we have nothing.

I literally have nothing left. Like I’m going to give them a Hot Pocket for dinner tomorrow like what am I supposed to do? What do I give them?

BILL MOYERS: What's happening there?

MARIANA CHILTON: First of all stress. Stress is very damaging to moms and kids. Secondly, you also see Barbie having the sandwich away from her kids.

So you have moms that will often scrimp on their own diets in order to feed their children. But what you see overall, the big picture there is that Barbie was working full time in those moments and therefore became ineligible for food assistance.

So what they-- what you see is what we call in the research world the cliff effect. So if a family makes just enough money to get themselves over the lip of whatever the income limit is they'll lose benefits that are actually very helpful to them and to their own children and to their health. So you can have a family kind of going up and up and say, "Oh, I'm going to take that extra-- I'm going to get a raise," or, "I'll work overtime."

They work just enough to fall over the cliff, lose their benefits and then they're worse off than where they were before. So we have a really big problem in this country with the way that we are looking at our wages and our public assistance programs and how they're interacting with each other.

KRISTI JACOBSON: And that scene was one of the most difficult to film. And both because of just, you know, the pain that Barbie was feeling and allowing us to capture, but also as filmmakers Barbie had gotten the full time job and so we thought this is the end of the film and--

BILL MOYERS: The arc of the story.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Exactly. And when this happened we were devastated for Barbie and thought what is this going to do to the story? Well, of course as filmmakers we have to follow the story. And I remember the conversation that we had with Mariana where we were talking about this and we were worried that it wasn't representative and then learned this is in fact so representative and a really important problem to expose. Because we need for these programs, if we're going to have them and we're going to fund them which is a different issue, they should be meeting the needs of the people who are using and benefiting from the programs.

MARIANA CHILTON: And in our research we know that food stamps do help to prevent hospitalizations, they do promote health, it does help. But the type of allotment is called the Thrifty Food Plan. The way that the government calculates how much an adequate meal or an adequate sort of thrifty food basket costs is actually inadequate for a healthy diet. So even if you have families that are receiving the maximum allotment, as if they had no other income, they still can't make ends meet.

BILL MOYERS: There's a nice twist in the film. When you're reporting on what it's like to live on food stamps and you have an interview with Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts who did his own research, as you do, into the subject.

REP JAMES MCGOVERN in A Place at the Table: I lived on a food stamp diet for a week along with Jo Ann Emerson from Missouri. We did so because we thought that the food stamp benefit was inadequate. Most of my colleagues had no idea that the average food stamp benefit was $3 a day.

I had my budget and I went to a supermarket and it took me an awful long time because you have to add up every penny and it has to last you for a week. And so I did it and I will tell you I, I was tired, I was cranky because I couldn’t drink coffee because coffee was too expensive. I mean there are people who are living on that food stamp allocation. And you really can’t. For us it was an exercise that ended in a week. For millions of other people in this country that’s their way of life; every day is a struggle just to eat.

KRISTI JACOBSON: Sadly Representative McGovern is one of few leaders and voices in Congress pushing to do the right thing here which is to protect and improve food stamps and other government programs.

He's an incredible leader, but he is even having trouble getting his members of his own party to support his efforts to protect these programs. And that's really troubling and upsetting.

BILL MOYERS: The road to reform always leads to Washington. And there almost every reform whether it's the environment or whether it's agriculture or food hits up against the power of big money to write the laws it wants and influence the politicians it needs. You found that to be the case, didn't you?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Yes, I think that, you know, I believe, and I don't think naively, that we Americans should be able to influence how our politicians vote on these issues. That's not happening right now. And the problem with this issue is that you don't always-- it's not so obvious necessarily how a politician is voting when it comes to programs that address food insecurity.

BILL MOYERS: There was a poll taken I think in connection with your film that found the majority of Americans actually were surprised to hear that 50 million people don't know where their next meal is coming from. And many of those polled just don't think of hunger as a pressing issue. Given your work on this how do you explain it?

MARIANA CHILTON: There's this concept that you can somehow see hunger, that we would know that there are hungry children if they were fishing around in the garbage can or if there were flies coming or they had swollen bellies and, you know, limp on the sidewalk. But that's not what hungry children look like. We don't see that in the United States. You might see that's severe starvation when you're dealing in times of war and massive drought.

BILL MOYERS: Somalia, the Congo, Sudan, all…

MARIANA CHILTON: So in the United States there-- it's children like Rosie who light up the room when they come in. It's moms like Barbie Izquierdo who's beautifully spoken, so brilliant. Her children are funny and enjoyable. And yet they're still experiencing food insecurity and hunger. So I think people are actually shocked "Well, I don't see it, so it can't be real." And they don't believe the numbers.

But what it is happening underneath is a massive crisis in human potential in the United States. Our kids are showing up to school not ready to learn. When they're in school they can't concentrate. You have kids who are food insecure when they're adolescents. They're suffering with stress and suicidal ideation. That's what we find in our research. How can we--

BILL MOYERS: Suicide ideation?

MARIANA CHILTON: Suicidal ideation, so it's thinking about, "Oh, what does it matter that I live?" It's thinking about killing yourself. These are very depressing and stressful experiences to experience hunger, to see your parents struggling with that and to struggle yourself.

So when you-- what's happening is that we are developing a whole half of the country overall is really left out of the public dialog. They are underpaid, undervalued, unhealthy. And we can prevent this kind of-- and we can prevent this.

That's why I think it's so important, what's so exciting about what Witnesses to Hunger is trying to accomplish is to make sure that people who know the experience of hunger and poverty firsthand are a part of the national dialog, that they're not silenced, they're not short of shamed over off in the corner, that they're actually front and center. They're the ones who can turn it around.

So we have to take back our democracy, be more engaged. And I think that a lot of people sort of in the middle who haven't struggled with hunger or poverty think, "Oh, we'll just let the government handle it. They must be doing the right thing," and, "There's no hunger," that's just called disengagement. We've got a big problem in our country with being engaged about what our politicians are actually doing for us.

BILL MOYERS: So you've tried to engage them. Let's take a look in the film at a very interesting sequence.

BARBIE IZQUIERDO in A Place at the Table: Everybody say, “Washington.”

WITNESSES TO HUNGER in A Place at the Table: Washington.

MARIANA CHILTON in A Place at the Table: Here’s the plan; at 11:30 the reception at the Senate. Senator Casey will speak, I will speak, Tianna will speak, Barbie will speak and every time that you have an opportunity give your ideas for change, for what you need for the success and healthy life of your kids, okay? These guys are the ones who make it happen.

BARBIE IZQUIERDO in A Place at the Table: I was the first mother of Witnesses to Hunger and I didn’t think anyone would take us seriously. But I’m here to let everyone know that just because we live where we live and come from where we come from doesn’t mean that we’re not smart. Doesn’t mean that we don’t have potential. Doesn’t mean that we do not want education. Doesn’t mean that we want to depend on welfare for the rest of our lives. I want the same hopes and dreams as everyone in this room for their children. We just need the opportunity to make it come true.

BILL MOYERS: Did they listen?

MARIANA CHILTON: I think they listened a little bit. They felt it a little bit. But it's not long enough, you can't just go to Congress and talk to legislators one time and they'll get it.

I think it's really hard to break through the cloud over our legislators. I'm not really sure who they're listening to except for people who have a lot of money and a lot of influence. So I think they're very touched by the personal experiences of a person who's poor, especially from a mom.

So I've actually seen Senate staffers get very teary-eyed listening to these stories and they say, "Oh, keep telling your stories, keep telling you think stories." But then they'll turn around and vote to cut food stamps. And that doesn't make a lot of sense. So I'm wondering who is it that's influencing Congress? Who's got their thumb on what Congress can do? And I think that there's just not enough people who are poor who have an opportunity to speak out.

I don't think they get enough press, they don't have, they're sort of shut out, there's no opportunity for people who are low income to really engage in our democracy. And I think that they're actively shut out as well.

BILL MOYERS: So bear with me though as I put on my horns and play devil's advocate. There are a lot of Americans who think that we're spending too much on food stamps and that the cost is out of hand. Your poll associated with your film suggests that last year alone the government spent $81 billion on this nutritional safety net as you call it, now SNAP, what we used to know as food stamps. And some folks say that is simply way too much and that we're creating a culture of dependency.

Here's Representative, Republican Representative Steven King of Iowa.

REP. STEVE KING: Handing out benefits is not an economic stimulator. But we want to take care of the people that are needy, the people that are hungry, and we’ve watched this program grow from a number that I think I first memorized when I arrived here in Congress, about 19 million people, now about 49 million people. And it appears to me that the goal of this administration is to expand the rolls of people that are on SNAP benefits. And their purpose for doing so in part is because of what the gentleman has said from Massachusetts. Another purpose for that though is just to simply expand the dependency class.

MARIANA CHILTON: All right, well, first of all I'm a researcher, so I like to base things on empirical evidence. There is no evidence that the food stamp program creates dependency.

Let me show you what this congressperson is doing. Basically they're pinning the problems that we have in this country on people who are poor. If you think about people who are poor really-- you have 80 percent of people who are food insecure are actually working. That means their wages are so low that they're eligible for food stamps.

So you want to talk about dependency in this country? Let's talk about corporations and businesses that pay such low wages that they depend on the United States government to add money to those wages through the Income Assistance Programs, like SNAP. So because if you take a company like Walmart, pays their workers so low that their workers are actually eligible for food stamps. Who's dependent on the U.S. government? I'd have to say it's Walmart is the welfare queen here.

BILL MOYERS: But if I were Congressman King sitting here I might say to you make a very convincing case and I believe that both of you are genuinely committed to this issue, but you know, 48 million people are receiving food stamps. Can't you see why some of my constituents in Iowa would be shocked by that and at that cost?

KRISTI JACOBSON: Well, I think it's also important to look at how many corporations and agribusinesses are collecting subsidies out of the same government bill, the farm bill.

Well, yeah, and I think that there is an ethos in Congress right now that assisting those individuals who need help via the food stamp program or WIC or school meals is big government and is going to put us into debt. But providing subsidies to large agribusinesses and big corporations is just business as usual.

And I think that we're looking at, you know, investing in our youth and investing in our future. And if it doesn't get to you, congressman, from the moral point of view that it's really frankly not okay to have kids like Rosie and Barbie's kids to the tune of 17 million of them in our nation-- well, what about the cost of not doing anything? Because the cost of food insecurity, the cost of obesity and malnutrition is way larger on the back end and the health care than it is to get these programs adequately funded and feed kids nutritious foods.

MARIANA CHILTON: If you think about what government is supposed to be doing, it's supposed to create the conditions in which people can make healthy choices and live an active and healthy life.

It's all about creating good conditions for us to prosper, right.

Somehow when we think about helping people who are poor, many of whom are working, it's there becomes this type of societal vitriol towards people who are poor as if they're not us. Well, actually people who are poor are all around us. Their children are going to the same schools oftentimes. We need to really rethink about who we are as a country, what does it mean to be an American. If you think about one in five of our children living in households that are food insecure, they're just as American as the rest of us, we need to really invest in our own country and who we are.

BILL MOYERS: You've been to Washington with some of your constituents. You've made your case. You're up against the interlocking power grid of big agriculture, big corporations and big government. What makes you think you have a chance of turning them around?

MARIANA CHILTON: The power of the human spirit. When you have a lot of moms who have had enough we can take over Congress and say we care about our children just like you care about your children. But we need more moms, we need more families to be able to speak up. I think that we need to take over, take back our democracy, take back our sense of involvement, of belonging, that this is our government.

This government is supposed to be working for everyone regardless of how you were born or where you were born or how much money you make. It's supposed to work for all of us.

We've got to figure out a way to just help the people who are in power to recognize their own sense of humanity and recognize that they are no different than Barbie Izquierdo, no different than Rosie, that their kids are no different than Rosie, that we're all a part of that same human family. Ultimately that's what we need to tap into.

BILL MOYERS: On that note thank you, Dr. Mariana Chilton, for your work and Kristi Jacobson, thank you for an extraordinary film. And thank you both for being here.

MARIANA CHILTON: Thank you so much.


Kristi Jacobson and Mariana Chilton on How Hunger Hurts Everyone

Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us — one in six Americans — go hungry. More than a third of them are children. And yet Congress can’t pass a Farm Bill because our representatives continue to fight over how many billions to slash from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The debate is filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers. But a new documentary, A Place at the Table, paints a truer picture of America’s poor.

“The cost of food insecurity, obesity and malnutrition is way larger than it is to feed kids nutritious food,” Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers, tells Bill. She and Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, explain to Bill how hunger hits hard at people from every walk of life.

“There’s no opportunity for people who are low-income to really engage in our democracy,” says Chilton. “I think they’re actively shut out.”

Producer: Candace White. Editor: Rob Kuhns. Associate Producer: Julia Conley.

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  • Anonymous

    It would be immoral not to hope. Hope itself is a question of morality.

  • AnnieG

    Nobody is talking about the disabled and elderly living in poverty because they receive less that $1000 a month in SS or SSDI. If they are single, they live in poverty.

  • Drew Sanders

    No one talking about families like mine. We have a child with Autism, and another with Epilepsy. I was forced to leave retail management after almost 15 years in the industry, because my son went through 3 near fatal seizures in a month, and my company felt that my absences were “not good for the cohesion of the store team.” My wife in in school full time, and we depend on SSI and SNAP to keep us afloat. I am able to work a weekend job, but we have nothing left at the end of every month. Any unexpected expense (car repair, medical) gets pulled from another part of the budget. Lawmakers on both sides have no idea what the life of the average American is, and farm bills have become nothing more than pet projects to ensure that the massive flood of money from Agribusiness keeps coming into Congress’ coffers.

  • claire

    I don’t think that most politicians are aware of the things hungry people are capable of doing. Denying them access to food is a recipe for disaster. Keeping bellies full is easier than quelling the serious uprisings that would occur otherwise. Someone ought to remind them of this. Eating the rich could become a hypothetical imperative.

  • Anonymous

    eating the rich – now there’s a modest proposal.

  • davidp

    why spend all that money on these so-called block buster movies…isn´t it better to buy a meal or food for one of these families in your community. These movies I will not see or haven´t seen for many decades.

  • Kaytedid

    I am ashamed of our congress, that they can’t find other ways to cut back. 1 in 6 children in the US go hungry. What does that say for the most powerful country in the world…just saying.

  • Anonymous

    Fifty million. That is several million more people than live in my country. That is a lot of people. American politicians like to whine and complain about the cost of healthcare in the US, yet when it comes to legislation that would bring the costs down, they can’t seem to get off their butts. So no rational gun control laws to limit the number of gunshot victims in emergency rooms and operating theaters. Slash food stamps and school lunches that might prevent the kinds of chronic life-long illnesses that eat away at healthcare budgets. It’s just easier to whine and complain about some fantasy “culture of dependence” and then let the Monsanto lobbyists treat you to a two-martini lunch.

  • Anonymous

    There is a war on the poor. We are the scapegoat the right wing uses to say government is too expensive. It is backed with a lot of racism and hatred. It is a cancer…spreading…and will take us down if we, the people don’t stop it!

  • Jim

    No, it isn’t better. This film tells an important story that hopefully will play a part in getting the country to find the political will to end food insecurity. 95% of food for food insecure people comes from Federal programs. Take that aware and food banks will be swamped, and people will literally be starving.

  • Brad Wilson

    It’s a wonderful cause, and needs widespread support. On the other hand, the film and the book are based on farm bill myths, leading to a misunderstanding (reversal) of the farm side of the justice issue, and which then leads to a weak strategy, where they side with agribusiness and try to rob Farmer Peter to feed hungry Paul. On one side, corporations benefit from a low minimum wage (not caused by food subsidies to victims). On the other side, agribusiness benefits from the reduction (1953-1995) and elimination of minimum farm Price Floors, (not caused by subsidies to farmer victims). A massive solution would be to support farmers and bring back minimum Price Floors to eliminate the need for commodity subsidies, freeing up $96 billion for SNAP, etc., but do they know about that? See “Impacts of a farm policy do-over for historical 1998 to 2010,” and “Farm Justice Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill.”

  • L Jamin

    So here’s the only comment that comes to mind every time I see these “hungry” people and what’s on the shelves of the food banks: WHERE ARE THE VEGGIES AND THE WHOLE GRAINS? Hungry people will stay hungry for so long as they can only eat the junk which makes them sick and keeps them from having the intellligent reflection and the energy necessary to mobilize against the status quo. Am I wrong?

  • Mo

    My point may sounds petty considering the seriousness of the hunger problem, but watching the excerpt from the film, I was wondering why the working mother who was cut off food stamps was feeding her two children a can of Spaghettios (and eating a sandwich herself) instead of boiling a pound of pasta and heating a jar/can of pasta sauce to yield much more food for only a slightly higher cost and not much more effort.

    As a long-term unemployed Baby Boomer, I’ve had to economize on our groceries to meet our tight food budget. Granted, I have more time to clip coupons and shop at various stores to find the best deals. Perhaps educating people how to maximize their limited resources instead of relying on expensive packaged food would help them make the most of their grocery budget. Of course, other types of assistance are also needed to ensure that no one goes hungry.

  • NotARedneck

    This is certainly quite true. Just one more result of the dysfunctional education system created deliberately by decades of right wing policies. With an educated population, the US would not be so easily conned by the self serving stupidity and greed promoted by RepubliCONs and their allies – right wing Democrats.

  • treelover

    There were no comments about birth control. That is why Congress wouldn’t listen, they know one man is fathering several families in the poor community and living off one of the vunerable women who will accept him, yet he’s using her pc to check out porno during the day while she’s at work.

    Sure, being a single woman, if I had had 6 children from past relationships, I’d have problems too. But I didn’t I took my b.c. pills for 30 years.

  • Janice Cawyer

    I think you are “spot on” in your comments.

  • Anonymous

    We need a one child rule for the whole world as well as the United States. Even if there was no global warming climate change we’d still need a one child rule as this program demonstrated. Once we’re less than 2 billion world wide and at a sustainable level then we could go to a 2 child limit. But if you’re applying for any assistance then tube tying should be a prerequisite if you already have one child. We also need to end exclusionary zoning to maximize the probability that people can take care of themselves. There are two sides to poverty. On the one side is what you earn and on the other side is what you spend. Local governments and homeowner’s associations use exclusionary zoning devices to raise the cost of housing in order to exclude lower income groups deemed undesirable. I’m not against zoning in general. It’s OK to say this area is zoned commercial and this other area is zoned residential. It’s OK to say you have to have a flush toilet and you can’t have a septic tank because that is for the health and safety of the community. But it’s not OK to say your home has to be at least 24 feet wide and conform to existing housing or that your house has to have at least 1,200 square feet. The only reason I am retired is because I did not flush a lot of money down the 30 yr mortgage toilet. I paid off my singlewide mobile home is less than 2 yrs. Then when I retired I moved my home to a place that did not exclude my singlewide. Now I’m paying property taxes of $718/yr vs the $3,720/yr I was paying in lot rent to a mobile home park near Detroit. 240,000 people left Detroit between 2000 and 2010. Detroit now has 10,000 acres of empty lots yet they still have exclusionary zoning. No one had to tear down my home when I left the Detroit area in 2009 because I took it with me.

  • sandy

    Agreed. Though this young mother says she can no longer qualify for food stamps, at one time she did. Every recipient of food stamps should be required to attend a class (watch a video?) that shows how to buy nutritious food on food stamps. For instance, bulk bags of beans and rice (which are available at ethnic and many urban markets) can yield a huge and varied number of meals-and cost no more than the white bread, jam, and spaghettios this family ate. Also, to break the soda pop habit, there’s fruity-flavored herb tea sweetened with a little stevia. Healthful and cheap. It might be a challenge for families to change their eating habits. But, eating nutritionally on food stamps can be done.

  • Anonymous

    In 2012 I spent just under $1400 on food. I eat a plant strong diet. No meat, dairy, eggs or fish. I never go to restaurants. I eat about 10 different dry beans that Walmart sells as well as soybeans (organic, Non-GMO on the web). You soak soybeans overnight and then simmer them for 3.5 hrs. I put a cup of cooked soybeans in with my cooked hot cereal. The Walmart beans are combined with a jar of spaghetti sauce and pasta (elbows or spaghetti). One jar makes three meals. You can make a pancake from whole wheat or whole grain flour. 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt and one and 1/4 cups water. Mix it up and let it rest for 10 minutes then cook as you would regular store bought complete pancake mix. I like to put the hot ceal on top of a big pancake. So $3/day x 365 days/yr = $1,095 so just foodstamps wouldn’t be enough by themselves. I’ve never used foodstamps and had unemployment once in my life for about 12 weeks. My lifetime income was $699K. Now I’m retired.

  • Anonymous

    Exclusionary zoning is spreading like cancer across this country and needs to be ended sooner rather than later. If I had wanted to stay in Michigan I would’ve had to move 167 miles farther north of the Detroit area. End exclusionary zoning and you’ll be able to buy a home as easily and as cheaply as you can buy a car. It’s that simple. End exclusionary zoning and there will never be another mortgage crisis in this country. The housing market is both dysfunctional and irrational. A home that is properly maintained should increase at most at the rate of inflation. Housing values in Farmington Hills, MI (near Detroit where I lived in a mobile home park) are down 54% since 2009. The national association of realtors used to run a radio commercial and say your home will double in value in 10 yrs. Don’t flush any more money down the 30 yr mortgage toilet. You need to save for retirement. Just end exclusionary zoning.

  • DanishHeart

    I work at the Department of Social Services; I see how the system is abused and how an entitlement society has been created.Recently there was a tornado in the area; half the people who requested replacement stamps had not even lost electricity.
    I am watching this and it making me sick. The woman who got the job and had her stamps and child care cut; why is she feeing the kids canned pasta which will last one meal when she could have made a pot of pasta for about a dollar more and had meals for several days? Why is the overweight child eating chips and pop; a bag of chips will be gone in a minute, a bag of pears will cost about 50 cents more and will last longer? There is no limit to what people can use their food stamp card on other than the following: no booze, no cigs, no household products, but it can be used for ANY KIND OF EDIBLE PRODUCT, including candy, soda, chips, except cooked food in the deli. The reality is that we have created an entitlement society in which people continue to have children which they cannot feed. If you cannot feed them, don’t have them, I don’t want to pay for the children others are popping out that they cannot afford. Birth Control is easy and it is free and if you can’t get it, then don’t have sex! This just makes me sick, why should those of us be responsible for others who are not? And do not play the violin of “the children shouldn’t be punished”…the parent having the child they cannot afford is punishing the child, not those of us who do not want to pay for that parent to continue to populate the food stamp population. The idea that someone cannot live on $200 a month (that is the max for a single person, no income) and to divide that amount per day and try to buy food with the daily amount is also absurd. My family was on food stamps when my ex-husband quit paying child support and what he was suppose to pay. We were on $359 a month for three people and when I got a job six months later (at DSS), I still had stamps on my card for two more months because I was frugal with what I bought an I bought healthy food. We get calls at Thanksgving from people wanting their stamps to be “expedited” for Thanksgiving so they can buy a turkey. Why didn’t they buy their turkey in October when they were on sale, like the rest of us? The minute the government lmits what really can be purchased with food stamp and they limit how many people in the eligibiltiy unit can get them (two child limit, you know it, don’t go past it), we will see more people being more responsbile for themselves rather than expecting those of us who are responsible to feed their kids. I guarantee you, when people run out of their 60 months of temporary assistance and can’t get “cash”, they get a job within two months. It has happened every time. I just love it when clients come in and say “I need cash”…well, so do I!. The programs need to be limited not only to the number of people in the eligibility unit (two adults, two children) but also to what people can buy with that food stamp card.

  • Mo

    You’re so right about buying bulk rice and beans.

    Ethnic markets are also a great source for low cost produce (at least 1/2 or even less than at the supermarkets). As an added bonus, they have a much larger variety of produce, which makes for more interesting and nutritious meals.

  • L Jamin

    I thought SNAP came to about $5/day? That would cover it. But you won’t live long after retirement without fresh GREEN, red and yellow veggies and fruit will you? That’s what’s expensive.

  • L Jamin

    Aren’t you forgetting what poor people need most? EDUCATION

    You can’t expect them to know all about nutrition and birth control if they are deprived of the knowledge necessary to practice both. How much did you know at 17? How (and why) did you learn?

  • DanishHeart

    I knew that if you had sex, you could get pregnant, so I didn’t have sex until I was married. I knew that an apple was more nutritious than a bag of chips. I am second generation American and were responsible. When you reward bad behavior with free money, it will never end. It is not rocket science!

  • AverageJoe

    I am appalled that there is a system called WIC, what about those like myself. A single father with custody of my child. I work a full-time job in the grocery industry and am considered the “working poor” by my great state of Florida. I make a decent wage (too much to get food assistance) but still not enough to afford general necessities and to put food on our plates. I write this from my MetroPCS smart phone as I cannot afford a computer, let alone internet service or even cable. Corporate America is solely to blame. While I work in a -10 degree freezer all day the higher eschelon justifies an annual salary increase of more than I make in a year!

  • Anon

    Thank you. I love Bill Moyers but this segment is ridiculous. These people are spending their SNAP $ on chips, pop, cookies, and canned meals…the most inefficient spending possible Why not go buy a 10 pound bag of black beans and a 10 pound bag of brown rice. You’ll never be ‘hungry’ again. Applying ‘hunger’ to this I’m-entitled-to-Lucky-Charms-and-Chef-Boyardee culture is an insult to people who have REAL hunger issues, all around the world

  • Anon

    Bill Moyers, I have always loved your work and respected you, but this segment was shameful. How could you not confront these 2 women about the issue that has been raised by many commenting here: SNAP money is MORE than enough if people spend it wisely (see the multiple comments about buying beans and rice in bulk). These ‘hungry’ people showcased by the documentary (yes, I’ve watched it all) are wasting their money with *shameful* inefficiency…on pop, chips, cookies, and canned ‘meals’. I worked for years in social services and visited countless homes to see how the assistance money is being spent (or, rather, thoroughly wasted). You do a profound disservice to truly Hungry people around the world by calling these people ‘hungry’ rather than wasteful and entitled. The problem is ignorance and juvenility, not Hunger. Bulk-bin oatmeal may not be as fun as $5/box Lucky Charms, but you don’t get to claim poverty/hunger because your preferences feel entitled to unnecessarily expensive luxury-foods.

    You need to ratchet up your journalistic integrity, even when it must challenge this kind of ‘feel good’ ‘politically correct’ topic. You’re one of our best hopes for cutting edge journalism, but this puff piece was shallow, misleading, and enabling.

  • wishfulthinker

    People working 2-3 jobs don’t have the time or energy to cook every single meal. The elderly and disabled frequently don’t have the physical resources to make meals from scratch, plus they generally have a litany of dietary restrictions. I wonder how far you could stretch $5/day if you needed to make quick, easy, tasty, varied and nutritious meals.

    Not to mention, on such a tiny food budget, people are forced to choose the most filling, high calorie foods in lieu of more expensive and healthier options. Beans and rice aren’t going to keep a person sated the same way fried and oily foods will.

    If you think you can eat well on $5/day, go for it. Pretend you’re disabled or a frail 80-yr-old with RA and numerous other physical impairments and can’t cook all your meals from scratch, if you’re able to cook at all. And do it for 6 mths., not one, and then get back to us about how easy and satisfying your little experiment in Social Darwinism was.

  • Mo

    Yes, education is the key to improving all aspects of peoples’ lives as well as society at large.

    I think it’s more beneficial to look at how we can make education more meaningful going forward rather than focusing on pointing fingers and laying blame for how we got to our current situation. The sooner we realize that we’re all in this together, and can’t do it without everyone’s cooperation, the sooner we can tackle this issue on a multi-pronged approach (elementary, secondary, adult, and community education)

  • deenie

    SNAP is not enough to get by for the month. It was set up to be a supplement, but with the high cost of rent and utilities and prescriptions, many people rely on it as their sole source. I have health conditions. I cannot eat food out of boxes and cans. I have to eat whole foods and very little of foods containing high sugar contents. I do work and will until way past 65 so don’t call me lazy or freeloader, I’ve worked for over 45 years and I also work with injuries, but don’t qualify for SDI, I’m not wheelchair bound,yet or half dead.

  • deenie

    My mother waited to have sex and after 20 years of marriage he split. So what’s your answer to men who don’t live up to their responsibilities? Also, healthy foods are a lot more expensive than the junk Corporation put out disguised as food. A box of mac and cheese is cheaper than broccoli.Rice has arsenic and not a healthy choice for daily nutrition. Beef a roni is cheaper than making fresh pasta and meat sauce. Many times there are coupons for processed foods but not veggies.

  • rc

    Nothing was brought up about something that I see in my area all the time and it is simply this ,There are several young people in this area that are living together, raising families,and receiving all the government assistance they can get.You say what’s wrong with that?They all have the latest phone,nice tv,car and make enough with there combined wages to pay for it all on their own.But as they say why not play the system and get all we can?They turn down work so they will get what they feel they have coming is what they say.Marriage is something they say they will not consider because deserve what they are getting?I agree there are a lot of people that deserve help but to say as you did in your program the waste and fraud is around 1% is a flat out lie.

  • doggirl

    SO much of the discussion in the show was about feeding the poor but very little was actually said about how the SNAP program allows poor people to buy all kinds of junk food that is unhealthy and promotes obesity and illness. The SNAP program needs to be revamped so that the gov’t can subsidize healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and decrease sugar, fat, fried, greasy foods for people on limited incomes. People should not be allowed to buy pop and Fritos with food stamps. Also, we need a work program that teaches poor people how to grow their own food in urban gardens. Growing your own food is relatively inexpensive and can provide millions of people with healthy, fresh food. Also, little was said about school lunch programs which still need to be revamped to offer whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Feeding kids hotdogs and hamburgers is not a healthy school lunch. Also nothing was mentioned about the approximately 50% of the food in our country that is wasted, spoiled and thrown away. Many of it is left in the fields and never picked or thrown away in grocery stores and restaurants because it does not look “perfect.” I was shocked when my local grocer told me he must throw away chicken that is past the expiration date because it is illegal to sell it. This food should be given to people who can use it immediately to help reduce hunger.

  • Anonymous

    I want to contribute my time and my energy to bringing awareness to “Witness to Hunger”. Today I did the first in my plan to bring awareness to this by posting the show and the transcript to the show today with guests Marianna Chilton, and Kristi Jacobson. As an American Citizen I will never understand what has become of the compassion and empathy that is so lacking in our Country. Living in Idaho, I can tell you that there are many hard working Idahoan Citizens that are in fact the working poor in our State, they depend on Snap to feed their families. I agree that poverty has no face, no signature, only people that are in fact food insecure, and now since the great recession, it’s not limited to poor, low income, it’s reached it’s ugly hand to that of the working poor, and in many cases the middle class. I will not stand and be witness to this without doing everything possible within my ability to bring awareness and hopefully change to this situation. Our country is better than this, at least by my moral compass, and I believe that to be true of many others. We need to change this, so today I took my first steps to make a change, it may be baby steps today, but I commit to make a change by no longer simply being witness to hunger in our very own country, state, city and or neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    Think about your words and the judgmental attitude that you are throwing out, it’s a shame that you cannot use your energy to perhaps educate others on a more effective and or nutritional guidance that many may lack for a variety of reasons. I agree that you can buy a 10 pound bag of black beans and rice, but I would encourage you to put your culinary expertise to the test by eating beans and rice 3 meals per day and see how you like it. The problem is not that these folks are food assistance approved, the problem is that your going to now tell them what they should eat, because you are entitled to this . . . why is that? Because your taxes are paying for such programs? Where I live everyone pays taxes on every single purchase they make including food, sundries, clothing etc. So in fact the people that are approved for food assistance do in fact pay a percentage of their income towards these programs as well . . . What is indeed an insult is your angry words and you lack of compassion for children that are hungry, for elderly that are hungry or for anyone that are in fact food insecure, good for you and screw them, how very compassionate of you. I could care less if someone wants to buy their kids a box of Lucky Charms, and or if someone could indeed use their purchase power in a more efficient way. Put together a class in your neighborhood and donate your time to bring this level of awareness to your community. In other words put your words to work and help verses standing in judgment of others. There are indeed 50 MILLION AMERICANS that are food insecure in our nation, why doesn’t that bother you more than what someone does purchase good or bad? Wake up and put your judgments aside, open your heart and do something about hunger in our Country, or perhaps you could sit down to a homecooked meal and not have any thought at all to how very fortuitous you are, even though you seem to lack any moral compass and or empathy for those that are less than YOU!

  • Phil

    You obviously weren’t paying attention. The fact was discussed that mothers had often to choose between calorie quality and calorie quantity, because they simply couldn’t make the available food dollars keep hunger sufficiently at bay – absent high calorie junk food.

  • DanishHeart

    Gosh, someone needs to tell my ancestors in Puerto Rico to stop eating black beans and rice everyday even though it is a complete protein. Sorry, I see people come into the office everyday with perfectly coiffed hair, nails, and toes, they are using Iphones and they will give a cable bill as proof of residence. When I hear someone, who has eight children, all with different last names complain about how they need more on their stamps so they can give one of their kids a bigger birthday party; we should all have concern for this entitlement attitude and you know what, food stamps is basically free money for food; they need to spend it wisely and if they cannot, then it needs to be limited to what can be purchased so that you don’t have obese children filling uip on “chips and pop”; it is just as easy to feed a child a banana and a glass of milk. And if they can’t afford to feed them, then QUIT HAVING THEM!

  • ecstreet

    Thank you for giving voice to what has become a dirty “secret” surrounding the real dependents of federally-funded food benefits–corporations who pay unsustainable wages and depend on the government to fill-in the gaps while they profit greatly on the backs of their hungry employees and the tax-payers. I am a former food-stamp recipient who recently began a full-time job. I noticed an immediate decline in my ability to maintain consistent, nutritious meals from under-earning due to a very low-paying annual income. Ironically, I work for a non-profit group that assists individuals with enrollment into federally-funded benefits. The “Bill Moyers & Company” topic on food hunger among the working poor helped shed eye-opening insightful on the disconnect and ever-widening gap between government and the people it is supposed to assist in making the transition from dependency to self-sufficiency.

  • ecstreet

    Thank you for giving voice to what has become a dirty “secret”
    surrounding the real dependents of federally-funded food
    benefits–corporations who pay unsustainable wages and depend on the
    government to fill-in the gaps while they profit greatly on the backs of
    their hungry employees and the tax-payers. I am a former food-stamp
    recipient who recently began a full-time job. I noticed an immediate
    decline in my ability to maintain consistent, nutritious meals from
    under-earning due to a very low-paying annual income. Ironically, I work
    for a non-profit group that assists individuals with enrollment into
    federally-funded benefits. The “Bill Moyers & Company” topic on food
    hunger among the working poor helped shed eye-opening insight on the
    disconnect and ever-widening gap between government and the people it
    is supposed to assist in making the transition from dependency to

  • ecstreet

    I agree with everything you wrote. Since I started working at a non-profit group that assists individuals enroll for federal benefits, I’ve seen shocking advantage being taken of the system by the so-called “poor”. Often times, those who come to our agency requesting help are single young women and men who’ve dropped out of school,or are undocumented immigrants who are also unprepared academically, vocationally or financially to care for a child or, in most cases, children. It’s become an entitlement culture to which SNAP is NOT the antidote! In fact, I would say based upon my observations from working with the “poor” that the SNAP program has sadly become a culprit for complacency rather than self-sufficiency.

  • ecstreet

    Excellent! Well said. I couldn’t agree with you more–SNAP has become the Sugar-Daddy crutch for many who suffer from an infantile, disproportionate sense of entitlement with a sweet-tooth!

  • moderator

    To EVERYONE in this thread, please stick to the video/discussion at hand. You are off topic.

    Thank You

    Sean @Moyers

  • ecstreet

    Respectfully, I disagree. I grew up poor and got a mediocre public education–at best. But I chose NOT to drop out of school, even though the sex-ed classes hardly helped me learn about the facts of life. I chose to continue my education and worked hard to put myself through college and graduated. I lived enough of a “hard-knocks” life growing up poor to know at 17 that if I had unprotected sex, I could end up either pregnant or with an incurable STD. I also knew at 17 that I was hardly responsible enough to take care of myself let alone a child. It’s not rocket science.

  • NotARedneck

    Education in the US is world class for about 3% of Americans. For most of the rest, it is a disaster. The RepubliCONs want to keep it that way. As with all other issues affecting average working people, they have no intention of even entering a dialog, let alone “working together” to solve these problems.

  • NotARedneck

    Most poor black neighbourhoods have few cost effective options to get nutritious food. Unfortunately, what sells in convenience stores is pop and chips along with some processed food that won’t spoil.

  • ecstreet

    Yes! Not only CAN it be done, in fact, I’ve done it myself. When I was living on food-stamps during my search for full-time employment, I ate more nutritiously than I do now WITH a low-paying full-time job! Although I have to budget my grocery-money more so now with lower earnings, I still have conscientious shopping habits that allow me to stretch my dollars efficiently and effectively. The long-short of it is: while it may be hard it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE!

  • NotARedneck

    I agree. If they can ban booze and cigarettes, they can also ban pop, chips, cookies and processed cereal along with other junk food.

    Of course, the agribusiness lobby would have a bird!

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, your observations and judgments are made out of what?
    The position that you hold is to insure that people applying for food assistance do indeed qualify for the SNAP program, if in fact that they are qualified to receive these types of food assistance, then your job is to simply process that application based on the guidelines that are in place for your State. To assume that all who receive SNAP assistance is indeed abusing the existing system is a call that is based on your negative judgments against a low income and or poverty. There are qualifying guidelines, and you either qualify for a certain amount of assistance or you don’t, it’s that simple. Your position in social services is to implement the existing programs based on a persons ability to qualify for the existing programs in place. I agree that there should be a certain educational plan to address proper nutritional guidelines that should be community based on a outreach program. I think your missing the point, yes, perhaps some people would be able to exist on Beans and Rice on a daily basis, given their cultural heritage, but that is not really the point. It’s your attitude of placing judgment as if these programs are being funded by your income alone, far from it, are you aware that there are many families that have only one or two children and due to the past recession have either lost there jobs, and had to take a far lower paying job to exist? Your assuming that all people that are SNAP approved are indeed abusing the program and or are in fact feeding their children chips and soft drinks as their main stay in a diet, this is absolutely ridiculous on your part. Many people do indeed make sound food choices, many are not happy or proud to apply for this kind of assistance as it is a form of humiliation in our society, your lazy, your worthless, your a nothing, wow, it’s amazing that your in a job that would bring you to these kinds of demeaning comments and observational statements based not a true reality of why certain people indeed have to apply for food assistance but on your limited exposure to what you see in your limited position. I have empathy for people that would have to apply for this program and then on top of the humiliation of having to seek out help to feed their families, then on top have to be engaged by someone like you sitting on the other side of the counter, throwing out your judgmental attitude and your higher than thou disrespectful mindset, to someone less fortunate than you ~ how very sad.

  • Anonymous

    I do not think that you are wrong, it is a fact that many who are food insecure do in fact eat a high carbohydrate diet, with little to no whole grains and or vegetables. Another aspect is what region do you live in, when I lived in Southern California we had access to fresh produce 12 months of the year, and it was reasonably priced. We relocated to the NW and I had sticker shock when I first went grocery shopping here, the price of produce was three times as much and meat was three times as much. We were blessed to be able to afford quality food, but I see many hard working folks that so indeed have families to feed, and they simply cannot make it on their salaries. I’m going to work on a program that address the average assistance that the average family receives when in the position of financial reversal that requires them to supplement their food by Snap benefits, and I am going to try to offer a free class to anyone that is interested on how to purchase and prepare nutrition based meals, that are well balanced and affordable. There is no shame in wanting to provide food for your families ~ it makes my heart sad, and I am going to do something that will contribute to these situation.

  • Anonymous

    Right On Drew, there is a war on the average American Citizen and the pet projects that our congress love so much are not in the best interest of our citizens, I’m ashamed of our Congress.

  • Anonymous

    Why take pills for 30 yrs when a tubal ligation at planned parenthood is a permanent affordable solution to ever getting pregnant again? Attn men: planned parenthood only charged me $50 for an in office vasectomy back in 1973. It only took a few minutes. After 30 ejaculations you get your semen tested to make sure it is clear of any sperm. A year later you get your semen tested again to make sure your semen is still clear of any sperm and that your tubes didn’t grow back together.

  • Anonymous

    I have a VitaMix 5000 that emulsifies fruit. I’ll put in two oranges or an orange and a grapefruit along with some granulated sugar. Fill the pitcher with water and run the machine on high for a minute. That’s what I do instead of buying juice or buying frozen. That $1,400 also includes under arm deodorant, bar soap, dish washing liquid, tooth paste & dental floss, mouth wash, those little green 1 quart bottles of propane (for my Lehr propane powered lawn mower), laundry detergent, engine oil & a filter for my car…So it’s not all food. That’s what I spent at Walmart in 2012 and Walmart is the only place I shop for groceries (except once a yr I buy 50 lbs of soybeans for $80).

  • Mo

    You don’t need a world class education to know that a pound of spaghetti and and a jar of sauce are more economical than a can of Spaghettios. And yes, you can even buy them at convenience stores.

  • NotARedneck

    But you do need better education than what a majority is now getting.

    You also need the opportunity to put those ideas into action, something that is sadly lacking in most poor neighbourhoods. Generally, the wealthy have a vast competitive selection of low cost options while the poor have a convenience store that specializes in pop and chips.

    Perhaps the action needed is to combine food relief and bulk buying of nutritious food with training on how to prepare such food and how to eat well.

    Almost certainly, the RepubliCON criminals would try to obstruct this. They get their donations from an agribusiness industry that wants people eating high profit junk food.

  • Anonymous

    Stereotyping people whether they are rich or poor always gives a false reality because stereotypes depend more on believing is seeing rather than the other way around.

    Here are some relevant, non-stereotypical facts about social welfare, including SNAP drawn from my book The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch and from browsing the Internet: Corporate welfare in the form of numerous government handouts dwarfs social welfare (spending for corporate welfare programs exceeds spending for low-income programs by more than three to one). The U.S. has the highest unemployment and poverty rate among so-called “advanced” countries. Fraud is rampant among recipients of corporate welfare, very low among social welfare recipients. Most unemployed people would rather work than be on social welfare. Only 70% of SNAP benefits go to households with children with the average household having between one and two children.

    As long as we tolerate the corpocracy, which is ruining America, we will continue to have both corporate and social welfare. Ending the corpocracy (including its costly, deadly and endless warring), and it can be done, would lead to a more socially responsible capitalism with a high employment level and a guaranteed living wage and eventually would markedly reduce the need for social welfare.

  • Anonymous

    Thank You LibertyQuotient ~ you rocked my world today! Yesterday reading some of the posts and what I felt was a undeniable falsehood by many that posted about many families that receive SNAP supplementation in order to feed their collective families was very disturbing to me, it’s as if others have zero compassion and or empathy for others that are struggling in this recession of the last decade that has become endemic in our Country.
    Not one made reference to as you so beautifully described as the Corporate welfare that has been a part of our national landscape, I often ask myself why people are comfortable with that specific aspect but would deny and or put restrictions on what a recipient of the SNAP program should or could buy on their allotted monthly allowance for food, regardless of the type of food that they purchase.
    It seems as though many have their priorities askew and I often wonder what ever happened to “love thy neighbor”. I have no doubt that there are certain individuals that would use and or abuse the current programs that are available, but that is not or should not be a reflection on the average person in need of feeding their families. It’s heartbreaking to see the division and the social vitriol that we witness on a daily basis. Dog eat Dog, but the problem with that is I’ve never seen a dog eat a dog, interesting! However when it comes to loving and our trying to give a hand to another human being, many will stand in judgment and sling their personal societal views against someone in need, it’s heart wrenching to witness this in our society.
    I thank you for your words of wisdom. May you walk in peace today and everyday!

  • ed mangan

    you people are missing the real big part of the picture.

    like where are we going from here. as Moyers might recall during the 1970s, the elderly were into eating dog food as it was cheaper than anything else. said that just as a reminder to what happened during INFLATION> really a devaluation of the dollar bill due to vietnam. well we are there again just about to have inflation hit us again. if that cop and walmart workers can’t afford to eat lets give them all raises.

    you see inflation will cause everybody to get 5% raises and put them out of the qualifying for assistance. this is going to happen for a number of years 5% pay raises every 6 months until they are suddenly into a 10% tax rate. when this goes on for a few years/like 10. everybody will be put into new higher tax rates.
    now the crunch. bread that was a dime a loaf in the 1970s costs $1 today. it will cost! $10 a loaf, gasoline will be at $12.00 per gallon.

    you see it is the way they (the gov) raises taxes with out saying so. it has been done for years.
    I could go on.
    rich get richer and poor get poorer……….

  • ed mangan

    the gist of my quote. we are here again. the bill for running two so called terrorist wars is coming due. US is bankrupt. bernanke printing money like crazy and buying bonds from bankrupt countries, supporting the IMF bank. all who think we own a dollar worth something, if they only knew. banks will not loan any money out because it will go to China for our stuffitist and not re-enter the US banks is their real concern. no jobs in US they all went overseas. grads who continue to higher education because they could not find a job then still can not find a job when they graduate. sky high student loans to boot. they better be looking to overseas for a job…even low paying ones.

  • DanishHeart

    What is sad is that your post is making judgemental statements using the words which I did not. My post stated facts of what has been observed in many people who work in social services. The words “everyone” and “judgemental” were used by you. Funny how you are allowed to be judgemental about something you seem to know so little about. Others have agreed, especially those who have worked in community service organizations; the present system enables MANY, not ALL to embrace an entitlement attitude and the GUIDELINES and QUALIFYING FACTORS for the Food Stamp program, aka SNAP, enables some to be exempt from cooperating wtih work force requirements by WORKING THE SYSTEM at the cost of taxpayer money. Food stamps were meant to supplement the monthly food budget. In fact, this program was discussed at length at my office today and several people said that they believed it would be better to have a food pickup system where NEEDY FAMILIES BASED ON INCOME AND RESOURCES would be given boxes of food which would ensure a more nutritious variety of foods. Although that sounds like good idea, the real solution is to limit what can be purchased with food stamps and also limit the number of people in an eligibility unit. Please note..the words everyone, all, lazy, etc were not used in this post:)

  • Anonymous

    There was a certain amount of negative energy within the words that you posted on Sunday. Facts are usually statistical and are generated by studies, not by opinions and observations by many in the social services realm. I feel that it’s important to not be throwing around such terms ‘entitlement attitude’ as the phrase itself is one that clearly implies that it is expected, which I do not agree with, if you have an existing system in your state and the applicants must qualify within your state’s guidelines, and they are approved for such a program, they are issued a debit card that entitles them to purchase the food that they desire and or need. As I stated in one of my posts, in the state in which I reside, everyone pays a state sales tax, on all items including groceries, sundries, clothing and various utilities that even the disadvantage end up paying, it is effectively a state tax that is paid by all. So the people that are approved to receive SNAP are paying a proportion of their purchases for clothing, gasoline, sundries, over the counter medicines, they pay an effective tax that helps to fund the program. If you can find one fact and or statistic that proves this to be wrong I would like to hear about. I would ask you what would be the bottom line to implement the above program that you speak of, in which boxes of food which in your words would ensure a more nutritious variety of foods. Who make this determination as to the kind of nutritious foods would be included? The point being that you feel that you feel that the system is being worked by certain individuals, and perhaps it is to a certain degree, but it is not by all and there are existing laws in place to prosecute the so said offenders. My angst is that it sounds like you want to punish these people that are receiving the food supplementation that they are receiving, especially in light of the fact that you want to remove their freedom to make food choices on their own because you feel that they are not making the correct nutritious food purchases. Or limit what can be purchased on food stamps, the assumption once again is that person receiving the SNAP doesn’t have the common sense to purchase the correct types of foods, this in my opinion is being judgmental towards individuals that you really do not know exactly what they are purchasing, and I will ask you why does this bother you so much? Why isn’t a more important concern that in fact that many families must rely on these types of programs to survive? I’m curious do you think that it’s easy to have to go down and fill out a government form to ask for assistance to feed your family? I don’t see the empathy in your posts or a reasonable solution that would address how to feed hungry children, elderly citizens, or anyone that doesn’t have enough food to eat? Obviously I’ve caused you some form of distress by what I wrote and if I did, it wasn’t my intention, and I sincerely did not want create a uncomfortable situation for you ~ I simply think that when 50 million people in our country are food insecure on a daily basis, something should be done to address the situation. I would ask you why you think that I know nothing about this situation and or how the system is structured to help families to not be food insecure, you see your very wrong about that I do know quite a bit about it, as I have researched and I have written on the subject and given presentations on the exact subject.

  • Kaitlyn Fredricks

    like Rhonda implied I am amazed that a person able to make $5506 in one month on the computer. did you look at this web site w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • Doc Sheldon

    a one-child rule is a recipe for extinction, Herman. Even the US is in a decline mode, with the birth-rate at its present levels. China has ensured their own fate, if they don’t significantly expand their borders (resources) at some point in the next two generations.

  • Anonymous

    With all the debate recently for amending the United States Constitution in favor of certain issues and/or those constituencies, perhaps a more appropriate amendment should guarantee each citizen of the
    United States the right to food, clothing, shelter and medical care. Poverty is defined as the condition of being poor or lacking the necessary means of
    support to live or meet needs. Today we read of enormous corporate tax breaks, outsourcing of jobs overseas and outrageous salaries “earned” by
    athletes/entertainers. More recently came the revelation of the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. on two wars. In the meantime, the number of those in poverty continues to increase. The Old Testament of the Bible often makes references to the promised land flowing with milk and honey. All one has to do in this country is take a trip to the grocery story or department store and bear witness to the fact that if anywhere was close to exhibiting the characteristics of “the promised land”, this country is it. Yet somehow we are still unable to meet the four basic needs every citizen has. Some would argue that this proposal is an extension of Socialism/Communism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Socialism/Communism is a political or economic theory in which community members own all property, resources, and the means of production, and control the distribution of goods. No one is suggesting the replacement of Capitalism; an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned, and prices are chiefly determined by open competition in a free market. What is being suggested is that in this
    land of surplus “milk and honey”, there is absolutely no reason why the four basic needs of every U.S. citizen cannot be met. Some would argue that
    food stamps, thrift stores, public housing and Medicaid already meet these needs but in the words of President John F. Kennedy, “this country is
    divided between those who have never had it so good and those who know we can do better”. I think we can do better. Resolved, it shall be the right
    of every United States citizen (in order to further guarantee the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) to receive food, clothing, shelter and medical care that is adequate to meet their basic needs.

    As for the Farm Bill…

    The US Farm Bill currently being considered by the United States Congress is a multi-billion dollar, farm subsidy bill renewed every five years.

    The bill first became law in 1933 as a means of preventing farmers from taking a loss on their annual production of crops—corn, wheat, cotton,
    rice, and soybeans. The government paid farmers the difference between what they sold and what it cost to produce. At the time it was a brilliant means
    of “priming the pump” so that farmers could be temporarily shielded from the effects of the Great Depression on their industry.

    Today’s Farm Bill is a clear example of a government program being continued way beyond its original intention. Essentially, the government now pays farmers to under-produce crops in order to charge higher prices. Adding to the controversy is that it gives two-thirds of the subsidy to the top 10
    percent of farmers. As with most government programs, bureaucratic self-perpetuation has allowed for this subsidy to become corrupted.

    Not surprisingly, the government has it backwards. Why not let the farmers produce as much crops as possible, sell what they can on the world market,
    and give their surplus to the poor. Whatever they don’t sell, the government should pay them for and distribute it among those in poverty. In a world
    facing a food crisis never before seen in the history of humankind, we should never halt the production of food under any circumstances.

  • Anonymous

    China is doing the right thing except they need to value females as much as males. There are plenty of immigrants who want to come to the US. They come here for freedom. But no one should be free to overpopulate this planet. You’ll never have world peace unless everyone has enough. Just as you can eat yourself into obesity, so too can you populate yourself into poverty. Several thousand children die every day from disease, hunger and malnutrition. They lead short miserable lives and die miserable deaths. That is a crime against humanity. WWII was caused because both Germany and Japan wanted to expand their borders. China wisely will live within her borders. It’s likely that sea level will rise 20 feet or more when the ice melts. There will be many climate change refugees needing to relocate. I believe in quality of life and not quantity of life. Why can’t a woman be happy having one child and then in the future just 2 children? Aren’t we smarter than dogs and cats? If we don’t get our act together then mother nature and the dark side of human nature will limit population in a painful way.

  • Doc Sheldon

    Herman, the point is that any society with a total fertility rate (the number of children that survive and go on to reproduce) of less than 2.1 children per woman is destined to decline. You might find this interesting:
    I’m not saying that 2.5 kids per woman is the answer… just that it’s an inevitable effect of a low TFR. I don’t know what the answer is, or if there even is one… I just think we can’t leap to the conclusion that “this” or “that” will make things better… they might make things worse – and often do.
    I also would not assume that China will (or has any intention of doing so) stay within her present borders. On a very simplistic model, they have two obvious options: get more land/resources or lower the population dramatically (by dramatically, I’m talking about hundreds of millions just within their own borders).
    Their outlook is a great deal different from ours in the West, and eliminating 400 million citizens in order to let the remainder prosper wouldn’t be out of the question at all. I’d also remind you that they have a long and notable tradition of conquering new lands when the need arises, for resources, logistic reasons, defensible boundaries, etc. And they’re also not stupid… I’m certain that they fully realize that they’re on a path to extinction with the one child law… that narrows the options for them.

  • Radonna

    There would be very little need for food assistance/food banks if the greedy 1% paid a LIVABLE WAGE!! My rent was recently increased by 10%!! I mean, really?? The owner of my building thinks I can just magically procure that extra $? That’s a small example of the wealthy being out of touch with real people. I’m a professional, working full time, and my position is good compared to others. It’s really shameful that the 1% are making it seem like the poor are lazy and deserve what they get when in reality all of our financial problems are caused by their GREED!

  • Anonymous

    I can tell some people are out of touch with the reality of the poor after reading many of these comments (“I use my Vitamixer and juice my vegetable”..who can afford a Vitamixer? …and also that many people do not pay any attention to what the cost of food really is or that it varies from place to place, sometimes greatly..someone said a bag of pears cost less than a can of Spaghettios.. not in my neighborhood it doesn’t ..not even close. Or why didn’t they buy that turkey in Oct when it was cheap?…who can store a turkey for several months without at least a small extra freezer…not a lot of those in a poor family have a large refrigerator. Vegetables are cheaper than chips?; not unless you’re only buying one or two of them. I defy anyone to work at a real labor, on your feet all day, job and then come home and take 2 hungry children on an hour bus ride to get to a store that sells fresh vegetables, then take an hour bus ride back with those same “hungry” kids and then make them wait while you fix a wholesome dinner for them…if you can still stand up on your feet, that is. Let’s face it, everyone’s life, or needs, are not the same and you don’t know what someone is going through when they come to you for help or whether they have a toothache because they can’t afford dentistry, or painful, swollen feet from being on them all day or how scared they are that they won’t be able to feed their kids. If people are scamming the system, the sin is on them, not on the one’s who need help, so you do not need to paint “all” people on food stamps with the same brush. If you stand behind someone in the grocery line who you believe is scamming the system, call them out, report them, whatever!… but don’t blame everyone you see for one or two perceived failures of honesty. Don’t run around telling your stories of “welfare queens in cadillacs with iphones” that no one, so far, has ever proven but has only been repeated for what, after 30 years or hearing it, I perceive likely to be a scurrilous lie.

  • @emmaleechase

    I’m always amazed how low wages are in the US. I live in Toronto and a childcare worker (ECE is a college program!) is not making $8-10 hour. It’s more like $13+. Even the wages of LPNs is low and approaches minimum wage. Here they are making $20+. Some RNs make $40/hour or more. Anyway, the wages seem artificially low and that is disturbing.