After most documentaries I see, I walk out of the theater in despair because the problem exposed by the film is nearly unsolvable. Melting glaciers, the water crisis, Detroit. I figured “A Place at the Table,” a documentary about widespread hunger in America, would be different, because I’m already part of the solution. I was wrong.
My church has a phenomenal program called Backpack Buddies. Church members buy easy-to-make, nonperishable food and then volunteers stuff it into backpacks for more than 60 local kids who wouldn’t necessarily have anything of substance to eat over the weekend. “A Place at the Table” shows the absolute necessity and positive impact of programs like this, but it also showed me their limits. My church has dozens of Dutch boys with their fingers in the dike; we’re keeping the town from temporarily flooding without figuring out a way to stop the ever-rising water.
I’m extraordinarily proud of the Backpack Buddies program. Some tenets of Christianity are tough to figure out — “Feed the poor” isn’t one of them. But “A Place at the Table” has tough lessons for everyone, no matter their faith, no matter their political affiliation, no matter what they thought they knew about poverty.
I didn’t come out of “A Place at the Table” in despair. I came out angry. And I came out ready to work, not only to help fill those dozens of backpacks, but also to figure out how to make it so no kid ever needs to carry a backpack full of Easy Mac home.
Update on my family’s Oscar challenge: I won! I chose three winners out of six categories; Mom got two out of four; Jack got zero. Better luck next year, kid.