Globally, the word "hunger" has come to signify the most severe forms of malnutrition, starvation seldom seen in first-world industrial nations.
But "food insecurity," a description of circumstances in which an individual has no idea how to get the next meal, is embarrassingly rampant in the United States. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush find, as a representative sample of the 50 million Americans who live in that condition, three different subjects: Barbie, a young single mom in Philadelphia; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader and Tremonica, a second-grader in Mississippi.
Through their stories, Jacobson and Silverbush lens a broader picture of rampant hunger in a country that actually produces astounding amounts of food. Via interviews, animated infographics and an engaging history of such legislative causes of hunger as the Farm Bill (which subsidizes the crops most easily processed into cheap, empty calories), A Place at the Table attempts to document its subject with the progressive angle and emotional effect of such docs as An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman.
Barbie, a student on public assistance, struggles daily to feed her two children. When she finds a full-time job, she loses her eligibility for aid, and her circumstances become even more dire. Tremonica's diet consists of the only food available in the small stores of her rural town, a "food desert" too far away from major delivery routes to be profitable to major retailers. Rosie lives in crushing poverty, too hungry to focus in school, the film's coda her heartbreaking wish for people from television to take her to a better life.