The Next Fake Hollywood Scare: Child Hunger

March 20th, 2011 at 9:17 pm | 46 Comments |

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The current wave of partisan cinéma non-vérité has become every bit as formulaic and tiresome as Michael Moore’s scruffy Common Man routine.  Overblown but crowd-pleasing premises (pleasing at least to crowds in the niche markets the filmmakers target), emotionally manipulative techniques and  factually-barren narrative lines add up to exultant word of mouth and boffo box office: at least among audiences willing to believe six impossible things before the end credits roll.

The current breed of polemicists masquerading as documentarians have long-since employed gimmicks 1950s schlockmeister (and master salesman) William Castle might have balked at to shill their wares.  Still, even by the degraded standards of a field which has taken Fahrenheit 9/11 as its template, it’s unsettling to find a documentary chronicling the subject of hunger being marketed much like a latter-day shock-horror mondo film. Yet the forthcoming Hungry in America is doing just that: employing the type of luridly sensationalist hype once used to sell grindhouse exploitation films.

To be fair, hunger — particularly childhood hunger — is a topic which does not easily lend itself to dispassionate inquiry. Even one child going hungry in America is one too many and only a moral imbecile would attempt to argue that point. The United States wastes an unconscionable amount of the food it produces — enough to fill the Rose Bowl every day of the year to co-opt researcher Jonathan Bloom’s arresting image.

Yet the producers of Hungry in America — coming soon to a film festival and, likely a PBS station, near you  — baldly claim that almost a quarter of American children are now haunted by the specter of want. The Great Recession, it seems, is to be the harbinger of a Great Famine. “One in four children lives in the U.S. on the brink of hunger,” says the blurb at the film’s website. “This film asks why.”

Better the film’s potential audience ask where that astonishing statistic came from.

It seems to stem from a misreading of data contained in annual U.S. Department of Agriculture studies on hunger.  In recent years these reports — cited in clips from the film posted at its website and in promotional material — concluded the number of “food-insecure” homes (to use the official bureaucratese) have tripled since 2006 given the onset of the recession and double-digit unemployment.

“Food insecurity”, a particularly opaque example of Beltway bafflegab, is actually broken into four categories by the USDA: high food security households are those with no problems about consistently accessing adequate food; marginal food security households have problems at times but the quality, variety, and quantity of their intake are not substantially reduced; low food security households have reduced the quality, variety, and desirability of their diets although the quantity of food intake and normal eating patterns are not substantially disrupted; and very low food security homes are those in which eating patterns of one or more household members are disrupted and food intake reduced because the household lacks money and other resources for food. Very low security homes are the ones genuinely living on the hunger line.

The most recent USDA report, released in November, placed fully 85 percent of American homes in the top category in 2009. However, the remaining 15 percent — almost 17 million American families — did have trouble putting food on the table at one point or another during that year. That figure includes an estimated 17 million children — or something close to a quarter of the total, presumably the source of the figure used in Hungry in America‘s tagline.

But the same data also revealed only a third of these households fell into the bottom category in which access to food was a chronic problem. In two-thirds of affected homes children may have skipped an occasional after-school snack but they were never going to be mistaken for refugees from Darfur. The one-in-four figure trotted out by the filmmakers isn’t so much misleading as it is flat-out incorrect.

Even in those households with very low food security, the USDA says children are usually spared from substantial reductions in their diets thanks to Federal food programs and charitable food banks. According to USDA data — the same data Hungry in America‘s producers invoke — in 2009 some 988,000 children, or 1.3 percent of the nation’s children, actually lived in households with very low food security.

Even one percent of America’s children going hungry on a regular basis is one percent too many — but it’s a far cry from the 25 percent living on the knife-edge of starvation claimed by the filmmakers and their publicists.

Interestingly, the plague of childhood obesity which camouflages malnutrition under multiple rolls of belly fat merits nary a passing reference in either the online footage or the Hungry in America press kit. Cheap but unwholesome deep-fried goop is now the sixth major food group in the U.S.  And the problem of childhood malnutrition increasingly owes not just to a lack of food  but also to the supersized helpings of nutrition-free food substitutes in children’s diets.

The long-term health, educational and social consequences of obesity have been exhaustively documented. This epidemic presumably won’t be as conspicuous by its absence from the finished film as it is from the pre-release marketing material: the problem of malnutrition as it exists in America today cannot be properly framed let alone properly understood without reference to childhood obesity.

Hungry in America — the subject of a celebrity-studded preview/fundraising event held in conjunction with Vanity Fair last year – say they stand on the shoulders of a watershed CBS News documentary aired in 1968.  Footage from the program has even been incorporated into the new film.

Drawing on a series of congressional investigations into overt hunger and malnutrition in economically-depressed areas, CBS Reports: Hunger in America was an unapologetic exercise in advocacy journalism — and a factually impeccable one. The documentary won a Peabody Award and, more consequentially, helped prompt Richard Nixon to launch a second front in LBJ’s War on Poverty with his own War on Hunger. Federal efforts to reduce hunger linked to poverty were expanded, became institutionalized and continue to this day.

Hunger in America employed the full resources and personnel of CBS News at a time when it was still the guardian of Edward R. Murrow’s legacy. Those who now say they can see further on the subject by sitting astride its towering legacy and claiming it as their own are more modestly scaled talents.

The new Hungry in America is made by filmmakers Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson and is executive-produced by celebrity “chef-activists” (that’s what they call themselves) Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali. Silverbush, married to Colicchio, has made one short film along with a barely released 2006 drama. Her collaborator Jacobson does boast a background in documentaries. She has one memorable feature-length project to her name – American Stand-Off, a 2002 fly-on-the-wall’s-eye view of Teamster election skullduggery. Her most recent film was an engaging if ephemeral portrait of her barkeep grandfather Toots Shore, a character who if he hadn’t existed would surely have had to be invented by Damon Runyon.  But the majority of her credits are for workaday projects she’d presumably prefer the Internet Movie Database not remind the world are on her resume (Tanya Tucker: Country Rebel).

CBS Reports: Hunger in America administered shock treatment to the conscience of the nation by taking a deliberately low-key, just-the-facts approach to the plight of the 10 million Americans then contending with hunger. It engaged viewers minds by making a logically presented case and their hearts immediately followed.  By way of contrast, the team behind Hungry in America — being backed by Lauren Bush’s FEED Foundation, the domestic hunger advocates — seem intent on enraging hearts in the apparent belief that distortion and scare tactics are better suited to promote their cause in this culture of illusion. They grandiloquently describe their film as “the cornerstone of a multi-platform social impact campaign … the center of an initiative intended to galvanize and empower audiences to take action that could lead to the eradication of domestic hunger in the next decade…”

Although we’re almost certainly in reach-exceeds-grasp territory here, it would be churlish to argue with such noble if jargon-couched sentiments. But it’s impossible not to take issue with the figure being used as the keystone of Hungry in America‘s promotional efforts, one which is as supersized as the producers’ declaration of principles.  If ever the magnitude of a problem did not require selective statistical embellishment, it’s this one.

Let’s hope the same emphasis on truthiness rather than the copper-bottom truth does not color the entire production or the associated “multi-platform social impact campaign.” If it does, Hungry in America could end up partially discrediting the very real issue it hopes to catapult back into the public consciousness. Not that this would be the first time documentarians and activists fell victim to their flawed brand of calculus — one which as routinely overestimates the surplus population of suckers out there as it does  the number of  children living on the verge of hunger.


Recent Posts by Tim Hodgson



46 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    Tax the rich at a decent rate, problem solved. Of course it may mean the millionaires will have to go without a pot of caviar occasionally.

    • Smargalicious

      What an absurd statement. Redistributing wealth to people who don’t earn it results in cities like D.C., Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland, Atlanta, New Orleans, and East St. Louis.

      Questions?

      • Rob_654

        So if we could find a wealthy person that did not earn their money are you ok with taxing them more?

        • Smargalicious

          At least the inherited income does not drain our treasury like the parasites do.

          Did that answer your question?

        • Rob_654

          No, it did not answer my question, let me restate the question and add the context in which it was asked.

          You had made a statement about redistributing wealth to people who had not earned it.

          Therefore, I would assume that if someone was given their wealth through not actual earning of it then you would be ok taxing them at a higher rate?

        • MiyamotoIsoruku

          “First, Moloch, horrid King, besmeared with blood
          Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears;
          Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
          Their children’s cries unheard that passed through fire
          To his grim idol.”

          Ladies and gentlemen, when I wrote this post (http://www.frumforum.com/employers-wonder-is-something-wrong-with-you#comment-255926), I confess that I didn’t actually believe that Smarg would literally propose child sacrifice.

          I was wrong.

          Smarg would rather see children starve than transgress his precious Randite, Social Darwinist principles. To him, hungry children, the unemployed, the victims of industrial collapse, the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, these are “parasites”. Their poverty, their need, their desperation is in fact proof of their unfitness, proof that they are a burden that society would be better off without, proof that they are life unworthy of life. It is just, right, and proper that they should starve; Darwin, Spencer, Ricardo, Rand, and the other the high priests of almighty market demand it. The idol must have its meal.

          I would like to propose a different philosophy:

          “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
          Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
          Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
          Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

          “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
          Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
          Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
          Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” –Luke 6.

          “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

          “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

          “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

          “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

          “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” –Matthew 25

  • terrana01

    If 25% of America’s children are “starving” it’s because their parents are stuffing them with junk food. Food is not being withheld from hungry children, as TerryF implies, in fact, if anyone wants to get up and get going, there are plenty of food sources in every community! People who parrot the “tax the rich more” for solutions, especially for problems that don’t exist, generally do not do a lot of their own thinking. In my opinion, of course! ; D

  • nuser

    If they are eating beluga sturgeon caviar , then they won’t be for much longer.
    Beluga sturgeons are critically endangered species. I do however appreciate your sense of humour.
    By the way , don’t see that you implied anything, but a touch of humour. What a grouchy, snarky bunch
    people have turned out to be!

  • politicalfan

    I fail to see how awareness is a problem. I also get tired of the junk food analogies. If a child is eating a ton of ‘junk food’ they are not getting adequate nutrition. Go to any state and you’ll find a community that needs help.

    There is a lot of good that can be done in our own country and awareness is needed to stop the negative stereotyping. Every person sitting in Congress should be required to visit their community and be honest. Others might gripe for the sake of griping but if it can bring upon positive change. That is not a bad thing.

    There are a lot of kind people trying to do their best to help others. (Hand up). There are a lot of kids in our own country waiting for heroes to leave their judgement at the door.

  • Houndentenor

    It’s hard to know how to respond to a write who seems to find that children sometimes going hungry is okay so longer as they aren’t going hungry every day. The lack of compassion and human decency is revolting. I’m ashamed to belong to the same species as such a person.

  • politicalfan

    “To be fair, hunger — particularly childhood hunger — is a topic which does not easily lend itself to dispassionate inquiry. Even one child going hungry in America is one too many and only a moral imbecile would attempt to argue that point.”

    Investigative journalism is calling your name. Time to contact Lauren Bush’s FEED Foundation.
    If we ignore it, does it really go away?

    “Not that this would be the first time documentarians and activists fell victim to their flawed brand of calculus — one which as routinely overestimates the surplus population of suckers out there as it does the number of children living on the verge of hunger.”

    Yikes. Ever volunteered? Try it, eye opening experience. People who are hurting financially also have children.

  • sparse

    by the time i got to the conclusion:

    Let’s hope the same emphasis on truthiness rather than the copper-bottom truth does not color the entire production or the associated “multi-platform social impact campaign.” If it does, Hungry in America could end up partially discrediting the very real issue it hopes to catapult back into the public consciousness

    i was no longer able to believe the author gave a shit about actual hungry people. he does not. if he did, he would not so cavalierly switch definitions (hungry vs starving) in pursuit of a chance to score a point against…people trying to feed hungry children.

    wow. slow clap for tim hodgson, people, won’t you join me?

  • balconesfault

    I’m not sure what the big deal is. We know that the GOP is already taking serious steps to combat child hunger:

    http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/7002/missouri_legislator_wants_to_increase_child_labor/

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/17/gop-senator-calls-federal-laws-child-labor-unconstitutional/

    If we just get rid of those damned child labor laws, we will have the solution – those kids who are going to be whining and complaining about going to bed hungry can go out and get a job. Society has coddled the children of the poor for far too long – they might as well learn early what life is about.

  • Levedi

    You know, just because American kids aren’t dying of hunger, doesn’t mean they aren’t hungry in a way that is real and damaging to them. And just because the numbers in one documentary are inflated doesn’t mean there are no hungry children in America.

    As one of those who grew up in a food insecure home, I can assure you that child hunger in America is a problem. I have low bone density as an adult because I had inadequate nutrition as a child and teen. So if compassion for children doesn’t motivate you, consider the social costs of ill nourished people’s drain on the medical system. (And no, my parents weren’t lazy or neglectful. They tried their best.)

    As politicalfan pointed out, try volunteering for a week at a food bank or soup kitchen. Plenty of genuinely hungry kids there – it’ll break your heart.

  • drdredel

    I’m lost here… is your complaint that a movie is shedding light on a problem, that you acknowledge is a problem, but doing so in a way that is not entirely accurate, and so… you would prefer… what?

    Here’s my analogy. You’re laying under an overturned tractor trailer and you’re pinned by your left leg and bleeding to death.

    Someone goes to get help, but you’d rather they not get help if by the time they got to the pay phone they have forgotten which leg is pinned?

    -”he’s pinned by a truck! Which leg?! I’m not sure… you’re right, better not come help, he wouldn’t want to be saved for the wrong reasons”

    or something like that?

    If you agree (as you say twice) that one hungry kid is one too many, and you agree that the nature of hunger in this country is actually encapsulated by children who actually eat more than they should, but of substances that are devoid of nutrition, then you should be happy someone is shedding light on this topic!

    Where’s YOUR movie that sheds light on this problem more accurately?!

    You think the makers of this movie are shilling for Hostess? (let’s make sure our kids are eating more.. TWINKIES!).

    I’m probably missing something (I usually am).

  • rbottoms

    The current wave of partisan cinéma non-vérité has become every bit as formulaic and tiresome as Michael Moore’s scruffy Common Man routine.

    Laura Bush is a Democrat?

    The new Hungry in America is made by filmmakers Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson and is executive-produced by celebrity “chef-activists” (that’s what they call themselves) Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali. Silverbush, married to Colicchio, has made one short film along with a barely released 2006 drama.

    Only rich and successful film makers allowed? And how many Oscars do you have again?

    They grandiloquently describe their film as “the cornerstone of a multi-platform social impact campaign

    I believe that’s what we techies call social networking and multimedia using books, blogs, web sites, streaming media, and film. You may have heard of this stuff, I realize is kind of new?

  • jerseychix

    What a snarky piece. You must be so proud of yourself.

    If you ever got off your privileged butt and volunteered at a food bank or a school food program, you would see what a problem hunger is for children.

  • Smargalicious

    This is a good and correct article.

    With cradle-to-grave Federal entitlements, any arguments that children are starving in America due to the government’s fault are completely absurd.

    Here’s just a few: Free births in any hospital ER, to include a free diaper pack and WIC card upon leaving; Aid To Families with Dependent Children cash payments; free public school breakfasts, lunches, and in some places, dinners; Section 8 Housing; USDA Food Stamps…

    Ever see a morbidly obese welfare recipient get out of their cadillacs with the slicked-up rims, fancy jewelry, modern cell phone and go into a grocery store and pay with a state welfare card??

    I have.

    Liberals, please be quiet.

  • ottovbvs

    Another bulletin from Bermuda.

  • Primrose

    Smargalicious, The diapers given at the hospitals are NOT given by the government but the companies who want you to use their product. As for you other views, clearly you are just a troll trying to rile the waters, please get a new hobby.

    This article is really badly written, in a way that makes me suspect the moral authority of the author.

    If they wanted to criticize the film for being imprecise and going for quick shock value over more careful analysis fine, but understand there is a problem. The title of the article was The Next Fake Hollywood Scare; Hunger. This is a far more fake scare than what the article addresses.

    It follows the usual rightist propaganda (those terrible Hollywood people) and then pulls a Palin by calling the phrase food insecurity Washington speak. I think the phrase Food Insecurity is fairly simple to understand, even for those of us who don’t suffer from it and it is used in the development community because it is more precise than words like Hunger. It includes severe malnutrition and starvation alike. Then this article goes on to suggest that food insecurity includes children who miss their afternoon snack, thus minimizing a serious problem.

    I must assume the writer is a childless, orphaned bachelor. How else do you get to be an adult without learning (from your mother, from someone else’s mother) that eating regularly and eating well is vital for child development. Doubt it ? Ask your mother. Ask any mother.

    A young child going without breakfast, maybe getting half a Velveeta sandwich for lunch and eating pasta with butter for dinner is a serious problem. The author might not consider this starvation but it is hunger and it is serious problem. There are entire diseases that one gets from malnutrition like rickets among others. This kind of problem means development delays which affect every aspect of a child’s life and would prevent a person from a middle-class family from succeeding and make it impossible for one in poverty to climb out.

    I simply don’t understand why the Republican party has nostalgia for Dickensonian conditions.

  • valkayec

    From my point of view, this is just one more attack on the American people. Right now, some members of Congress as well as many GOP governors are reducing aid to low income families, talking about cutting back on school lunch programs, and dramatically the cutting USDA Food Stamp program. They say we can’t afford them.

    But we can afford $100 million in two days in Libya; we can afford a $1 billion each week in Afghanistan; we can afford more than $1 trillion spent in Iraq. The war total so far for the last ten years of constant war is nearing $3 trillion.

    We can afford unlimited wars, I hear, but we can’t afford to take care of our own people or rebuild our country or make sure our kids are safe, warm, clothed and well-fed. As for the comment about good, wholesome food in every neighborhood. Wrong. There are lots of neighborhoods, particularly in larger cities, where no grocery stores exist. Just corner markets that sell chips and coke and your basic crap foods. No veggies; no fruit. Even my rural town has only one grocery store – a fairly high priced independent market – but if you don’t have a car available, forget it.

    This author, like so many others of his ilk, is intellectually blind to reality. Blind to conditions throughout the country where 25% of the population now lives in poverty. The highest poverty level since the 1960s.

    Mr. Hodgson would be better off getting out of his ivory tower and affluent neighborhood to do some actual on-the-ground research, rather than spouting a few statistics to prove his weak, supercilious point.

    Mr. Hodgson, you’re beyond clueless.

    • Smargalicious

      Let me just repeat my earlier post so you’ll understand:

      With cradle-to-grave Federal entitlements, any arguments that children are starving in America due to the government’s fault are completely absurd.

      Here’s just a few: Free births in any hospital ER, to include a free diaper pack and WIC card upon leaving; Aid To Families with Dependent Children cash payments; free public school breakfasts, lunches, and in some places, dinners; Section 8 Housing; USDA Food Stamps…

      Ever see a morbidly obese welfare recipient get out of their cadillacs with the slicked-up rims, fancy jewelry, modern cell phone and go into a grocery store and pay with a state welfare card??

      I have.

      • Bebe99

        Is your point that some people take advantage of the system so we need to reduce aid to everyone? I know a couple of millionaires who get free flu shots every year. Its probably perfectly legal, though kinda repulsive, to drive up to the clinic in your BMW and get in line with a bunch of poor kids. But I wouldn’t stop the free flu shots over it.

      • valkayec

        Smarg: I’ve not responded to you before and do not intend to do so again. However, just so you’ll completely understand: what you know would not fill a thimble. You’re thoughts are trite; your knowledge base is limited to prejudice, anger and vindictiveness. Your experience probably limited outside of your own small circle and your educational reading even more limited.

        I dislike you and every thing you write. I do not value your heinous opinions and what you write as fact is nothing more than delusional, self-righteous opinion, just as what you wrote above is.

  • chinagreenelvis

    What an absurd statement. Redistributing wealth to people who don’t earn it results in cities like D.C., Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland, Atlanta, New Orleans, and East St. Louis.

    What an absurd statement.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    Once again, FrumForum shows that the commenters are both more sensible, and in many cases better writers, than the contributors. (Trolls excluded, of course.) Primrose, I especially enjoy your posts.

    Thanks to all who made valid points above. Like most of you, I have a hard time getting worked up over exaggeration in the area of child hunger — even if I concede intellectually that some may exist — when we are spending billions of dollars killing other people’s children.

    How many lunches could we have purchased for the $100,000,000 we wasted on cruise missiles in Libya in one day over the weekend?

    • balconesfault

      I have a hard time getting worked up over exaggeration in the area of child hunger — even if I concede intellectually that some may exist — when we are spending billions of dollars killing other people’s children.

      Give a child a meal, and he’s no longer hungry for that day.

      Blow a child up, and he’ll never be hungry again.

  • Houndentenor

    In the time it took to rant about some strawman argument about “redistributing wealth” the same people could have suggested making donations to and volunteering at their local food pantries. I find it odd how many people on the right think they are Christians and yet have no compassion for the poor or the sick. Yes, we can disagree about the best way to help poor children, but to offer nothing but tired talking points about “welfare queens” is disgusting.

    • jerseychix

      Right, but that would involve caring about real live ex-utero people. People that the GOP has no room for in their “freedom agenda”.

      Caring for the poor and sick is hard work and requires sacrifice. Complaining about welfare queens is easy. Note, no one talks about welfare kings. That’s because the state is also supporting a very large portion of poor men, in prison. And the prison lobby is awfully strong with the GOP.

      • balconesfault

        Note, no one talks about welfare kings.

        no no … the term is “strapping young bucks buying T-bone steaks with their food stamps”, thanks to St. Ronnie.

  • chicagoindependent

    According to USDA data — the same data Hungry in America’s producers invoke — in 2009 some 988,000 children, or 1.3 percent of the nation’s children, actually lived in households with very low food security.

    To the author’s own admission, almost 1Million children are threatened with hunger. 1 MILLION! But since the advocacy is coming out of Hollywood the entire exercise a is a waste.

    A second and third the multiple comments about how f’d up our Country’s priorities are that $100MM in cruise missiles can be blown up in 24 hours, but school lunch and food stamp programs are under the knife.

  • Primrose

    Thanks TRS for the compliment. I too enjoy many of the posts here.

    Also, I want to add that food insecurity is not just an urban phenomena, nor for the unemployed. Rural poverty is, as it always has been, a long standing problem. It also exists in great numbers in the rust belt, places that used to have great manufacturing but now are lucky to have walmart. It occurs to those who work the lower end of jobs, or even slightly higher in the cities, due to the cost of housing. I don’t see how one can have a household income under 50K, and properly feed children, here in the Northeast, with rent at minimum 900 in any town with an acceptable school district, oil several hundred, and food fairly pricey, cars and associated costs several hundred . Yet any number of non-retail, traditionally adult jobs pay 20-30k. Take one adult from the mix and that family is struggling. They’re not lazy. They’re not even uneducated. They only drive a cadillac if they got it at the junkyard. Compassion requires us to look deeper than foolish smarg like myths.

  • Hal

    A dispassionate reading of the article would conclude that the documentary is overhyping a problem that cannot be dismissed lightly. Facts are facts and the difference between 1.3% and 25% (1 in 4) is substatial.

    If a future documentary titled “Obese and Out of Shape in America” produced equally shoddy statistics would the same snarky commenters comments apply? One could argue that the health risks and lowered life expectancy of obesity are greater that occasionally being hungry during ones childhood.

    It is far too easy to posture and tar your perceived opponents as being callous, greedy scoundrels, than to take time to evaluate what is actually being written.

    • sparse

      hal-
      i appreciate your thoughtful approach, it caused me to reread the article.

      i think you make a mistake, though. facts are facts, as you say, but the issue is not between 25 and 1.3, the numbers that hodgson would have you believe are the fulcrum of his critique. it is the definition of hungry. he glosses over some very very important issues in his march to 1.3%.

      i have to concede that the producers kind of set themselves up for this, after all they are producing a sequel of sorts, and the word “hungry” was sort of dictated by that. better to understand it as malnutrition, a less sexy word, but a far more pervasive reality than actual hunger (thanks to the dollar menu). so, no, there are not very many american children walking around actually literally hungry. but the point the producers wish to make is not wildly fabricated as hodgson would have you believe.

      your post started with the idea that a dispassionate reading of the text would reveal a different reality than many of the commenters seemed to pick up on. i would suggest that a dispassionate reading is fine, but a careful reading is better. when hodgson defines hunger for us (“refugee from darfur”) he clearly is playing games. when he gets to this line, “but it’s a far cry from the 25 percent living on the knife-edge of starvation claimed by the filmmakers and their publicists,” he is clearly trying to score cheap points. he, in fact, has created the hyperbole he accuses the filmmakers of.

      i cannot speak for the other commentors here, but my outrage stems from that. and i do not see a problem with applying a label of callous scoundrel here. i do not know where you got greedy from, i do not recall seeing anyone calling him greedy. but a person who muddies an important discussion– one about kids not getting enough nutrition– to score points against “hollywood” is an outrage.

  • Iamm

    New legislation introduced after the release of the movie:

    Produce Protection and Affordable Food Act – The laws focus on reform of the private food insurance market…

  • valkayec

    If a future documentary titled “Obese and Out of Shape in America” produced equally shoddy statistics would the same snarky commenters comments apply? One could argue that the health risks and lowered life expectancy of obesity are greater that occasionally being hungry during ones childhood.

    The health risks of obesity are numerous and certainly the cost to all of society from obesity are being felt in every health insurance premium and in state and federal budgets. But the author of this article is not talking about children missing an occasional meal and thus being hungry as a result. He’s arguing that the film is inaccurate and that childhood hunger is not something one should concern themselves with or think about. Just ignore it.

    And it’s not just hunger that’s a problem. It’s childhood nutrition. At the local corner store, that serves as the only grocery store (though that’s using the term loosely) within walking distance for most in my rural town, a small bag of chips is 0.49 while a single banana or an orange is $1.00. For many low income families, the choice becomes buying anything affordable that puts food in the child’s stomach, even if its only junk food that’s affordable.

    The author of this article would have done us all a better service and been more informative if he had actually done more research, driving around the country and talked to people, from parents to teachers to social workers, about childhood hunger. His grasp of the subject is cursory at best.

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  • larry

    “Dead your Majesty! Dead, you lords and gentlemen! Dead, you right reverends and wrong reverends! And it happens every day in the streets of London.” Anonymous narrator, on the death of little Jo, who was just trying “to stay out of the way.” Dickens, Bleak House.

  • Smargalicious

    Smarg would rather see children starve than transgress his precious Randite, Social Darwinist principles. To him, hungry children, the unemployed, the victims of industrial collapse, the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, these are “parasites”. Their poverty, their need, their desperation is in fact proof of their unfitness, proof that they are a burden that society would be better off without, proof that they are life unworthy of life. It is just, right, and proper that they should starve; Darwin, Spencer, Ricardo, Rand, and the other the high priests of almighty market demand it. The idol must have its meal.

    Verbal subterfuge.

    Our cities are teeming with millions upon millions of fatherless welfare thugs and welfare super breeders, and we all are witness to their destruction.

    Cry me a river. We actually need an economic and social apocalypse so we can start over.

    • MiyamotoIsoruku

      “Our cities are teeming with millions upon millions of fatherless welfare thugs and welfare super breeders, and we all are witness to their destruction.

      “Cry me a river. We actually need an economic and social apocalypse so we can start over.”

      Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the face of genocide. Like totalitarians everywhere, he dreams of “start[ing] over”. He dreams of a world swept clean of the human detritus, the degenerate, the untermenschen who by their very existence dare to inconvenience Smarg and his fellow supermen. Such undesirables must be cleansed so that Smarg can live in his perfect world.

      And so like all idols, Smarg’s is, ultimately, an oven. And Smarg is only too happy to toss it its meal.

  • politicalfan

    “Our cities are teeming with millions upon millions of fatherless welfare thugs and welfare super breeders, and we all are witness to their destruction.”

    Smarg- I hope that you’re a wealthy person and have a plane for a quick get away.
    Secondly, consider breeding as overrated. Stay wealthy, happy, single and donate your funds to your pet iguana. They don’t eat much, mature leaves amongst other things.

    Oh king of verbal subterfuge…

  • Primrose

    One could argue that the health risks and lowered life expectancy of obesity are greater that occasionally being hungry during ones childhood.

    Actually, there is quite a big difference. The health risks and lowered life expectancy are because Obesity increases one’s risk of degenerative diseases, diseases that occur later in life. Food insecurity while young increases one’s risk of dying young. Fevers, illness that hit children who are undernourished hit much harder, even common diarreah becomes a bigger deal if you are malnourished. This is why mother’s around the world instinctively want plump babies.

    Additionally, being malnourished affects development and can cause developmental delays, physical, mental and emotional. Additionally, it increases one’s risk of degenerative disease if you get old enough to have them.

    If you don’t eat properly, you don’t learn properly and then that’s denied you as well. Really food insecurity affects every aspect of a child.

    As for the junk food claim, you risk sounding like Marie Antoinette. Cheap food is (as it always has been) large amounts of carbohydrates. But the thing is that kind of food doesn’t have a lot of nutrients, or even protein, i.e. junk. Poverty causes it.

    I might also add that kids only get school lunches and breakfasts when they are in school. So those too young, those off for the summer or snow days or the weekend, still go hungry. And of course, we are planning on cutting WIC.

    So frankly, to focus on the supposed exaggeration of use of the word hunger to cover the larger problem of food insecurity instead of the actual problem of food insecurity itself is callous. One might even say it is the definition of callousness.

  • Primrose

    valkayec,

    We must remember that Smarg is a troll, not because the sentiments are vile but because he says vile, upsetting things to watch everyone spin out of control in response. Every time we give in to the instinct (an often overpowering one I admit,oh mea culpa) to respond we are actually playing his (or frankly just as likely her) game. In fact, if you will notice, the more people who choose the ignore Smarg, the more inflammatory his/her/it’s statements become.

    Our best response is simply to ignore. I agree it is hard to do, but the more we do the better we all will be. Compare the tone of the forum when trolls are present and when they aren’t.

    Perhaps, it will help if we realize that instead of anger we should feel pity for someone who instead of finding enrichment through the conversation with and connection to other humans (even though we may disagree) can only feel by manipulation, and therefore will always be isolated and alone.

    • politicalfan

      A sound psychological point. Call his bluff.

      Regardless if he or is a plant from another site. Or the greater creation of FF to toss water on otherwise agreeable individuals. The flame thrower is a representation of what is out there.

      While the relationship is at best dysfunctional, he serves his purpose well. (I think Smarg is male). I dislike the more offensive stuff that he says but his arguments offer a view of what a lot of people think but may not say. Besides isn’t it the responsibility of FF to call out comments that are highly out of bounds?

      I vote for different thinking individuals. Debate is not a bad thing. Plus, I don’t think he would stick around if he truly believed everything he spouts out.