Toronto is currently hosting a documentary festival called Hot Docs and I went to watch a film last night called “Finding North”. The opening credits of this movie played to melancholy music and treated the viewer to beautiful American landscapes; wheat fields, mountains, canyons, urban skylines, and then we were introduced to one of the main subjects of the film, a student named Rosie.
She had a roof over her head, clothes on her body, proper glasses, and goes to school everyday but she is among the 49 million Americans who is food insecure – meaning, she doesn’t get enough to eat.
Throughout this documentary, the complex issue of hunger and the stereotypes we have of those who use food banks and soup kitchens are examined. As someone who works in the field of nutrition, I was reminded of the fact that obesity and starvation sit side by side on the spectrum of food insecurity. When someone only has a few dollars to spend at the supermarket they can choose between processed food which provides VOLUME and whole foods (like fruits and vegetables) which don’t provide volume but provide QUALITY. If I were starving, I would probably choose chips over an apple too.
Food policy was explored through reviewing the role of the USDA. It became clear that the US government doesn’t reward farmers who make fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient high crops but instead are heavily influenced in policy making to reward large conglomerates that produce just five crops; corn, wheat, soy, rice, and cotton.
Right now, one in every two kids in the US is on federal food assistance and what is provided is not enough to keep people from going hungry.
I felt enraged most of the movie at the inequity we seem to accept as a societal norm but there were slivers of hopeful stories told and the message is clear – we can make a difference through making food accessibility at home, schools, and industry a priority at the polls. This is a hugely important issue to me and I will be watching Canadian food policy closely for both the next municipal, provincial, and federal elections.
Hunger is a complex issue both in the US and Canada alike and if you have an interest in this topic check out Finding North. There is a great trailer to wet your taste buds: http://www.takepart.com/findingnorth