Panel discusses hunger during event at the Glove

GLOVERSVILLE – With Thanksgiving right around the corner, food is on many people’s minds.

On Saturday, however, the lack of food for people in the United States was the main topic of discussion at the Glove Performing Arts Center.

The local branch of the American Association of University Women and Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market hosted a free viewing of “A Place at the Table,” which follows the lives of three Americans who struggle to find food everyday.

The movie emphasized the fact that hunger, or “food insecurity” as it’s referred to, isn’t just an inner-city problem; it’s a common occurrence in this country.

The movie also identified the relation of obesity and food insecurity. According to the film, obesity occurs because cheaper foods are easier for impoverished people to obtain, and these foods usually lack in nutrition, therefore leading to obesity.

After the movie ended, AAUW members Carol Cowne and Helen James welcomed a panel consisting of Dr. Phillip James of Saratoga Hospital, Crystal Stewart from Cornell Cooperative Extension and Elizabeth Blodgett, nutritional outreach coordinator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to discuss the movie with the 30-person audience.

Audience members wanted to know why nutritious foods are expensive and harder to obtain for impoverished people.

Stewart said agricultural subsidies in this country tend to go to larger farms for commodity crops, which are processed into low quality, inexpensive foods. That leaves other, healthier foods being priced closer to what they cost to produce – which makes them more expensive for consumers.

“So, if you have to pay what it costs for food, and you’re the people in the poverty rate, you cannot afford that quality food right now,” Stewart said.

Bev Alves, a member of the audience, said impoverished people need support systems when it comes to grocery shopping and making food choices. She claimed research indicates sugar and fat are as addicting as drugs.

Dr. James said proper support is necessary.

However, James said he didn’t realize how important it was until be saw the movie.

“I spend large portions of my time talking to children and parents, trying to educate them on proper nutrition and proper lifestyle, but now that I’ve seen this movie, I realize a lot of these families don’t really have those choices and I feel pretty smug because I tell them what kinds of things they should eat, but they’re not able to make those choices,” James said.

Audience member Vincent DeSantis explained that his favorite part of the movie was when a teacher brought in a melon for her students to try during class. The students were not familiar with melon, but enjoyed eating it.

“On a local level, it seems to me the most important thing to do is educate,” DeSantis said. “The idea of these schools letting every kid experience what really good food tastes like and how you get it is important. It seems to me that young children learning how to grow food, how to pick food, how to cook food and how to make it taste good is probably the biggest impact we can have. You can have food pantries and give away cans of Chef Boyardee all you want, but it’s not going to solve the problem.”

At the end of the discussion, Stewart reminded the audience that the issue of local hunger can be resolved if the community works together.

“Every single day there’s an opportunity for us to take a step forward,” she said. “And if we realize that we are in this together, I think it will change the mindset in a big way.”