GrowMemphis, a philanthropic project of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center aimed at helping poverty afflicted communities turn vacant lots into community gardens, is trying to educate Memphians of every socio-economic class by hosting a special screening of the film, “A Place At The Table.”
The film discusses general problems about poverty across the country and how it is affecting people’s access to nutritious foods. The film will also talk about the problems that could result from cutting Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs (S.N.A.P.), more commonly known as welfare.
“People have a misconception of the ‘welfare queen’—a single African American woman who abuses the system through receiving governmental aid,” said Carole Coulter, food policy coordinator at GrowMemphis. “That simply isn’t true. Most of the people that benefit from welfare programs are children and the elderly.”
Christopher Peterson, executive director of GrowMemphis, said in Memphis a significant portion of welfare recipients live in Collierville. Suburban food stamps are not talked about that much because of the stigma associated with it.
“Even if someone goes to a food pantry to receive donations, the majority of it is processed and lacks sufficient nutrition,” Coulter said.
“Food security affects all aspects of life,” Coulter said. “This film shows one child who was being reprimanded at school for not paying attention. After his teachers looked into his situation a little further, they found out he was just hungry.”
The problem of obesity in Memphis might be alleviated in Memphis if people could afford healthy food, according to Coulter and Peterson. Most blight-stricken neighborhoods do not have a local grocer within walking distance. Considering a vast numbers of Memphians cannot afford a car, a convenience store is the easiest option.
“If you have very little money and need to feed a family, you are going to try get the most food for your dollar,” Coulter said. “If growing children do not get enough nutrients for brain development in their formative years, they are compromised from the start.”
Often, these foods are highly processed and chock-full of fat, salt and sugar.
Peterson and Coulter hope the film will spur a discussion among Memphians about food security, and whether access to healthy food is an individual issue or the result of a disproportionate distribution of wealth.
“Parents do not purposely starve their children it is frustrating for them to not have access to healthy food, they want the best for their kids,” Coulter said.. “We are hoping this film will open their eyes.”
Peterson said that although food scarcity is still an issue in blighted communities around Memphis, but he has seen improvement since joining the GrowMemphis team.
“We have seen enormous growth in community gardening, going from three in 2007 to now having 30,” he said.
Under Peterson’s incumbency as executive director, the program launched the “Double Greens Program” which doubles the value of S.N.A.P. benefits at local farmer’s markets. The program not only helps poverty stricken Memphians afford organic fruits and vegetables, but also local farmers who are “barely getting by.”
Peterson added that the film is not presenting one side of the political spectrum, but discusses the problem as a whole. His goal is for viewers to come away with questions and implement some of the problem-solving strategies showcased in the film into Memphis’ hunger problem.
“We are not endorsing any political view or action. We just want to see the problem get better,” Peterson said. “Providing equal access to healthy food is the right thing to do.”
The film will screen on Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Crosstown Arts on 430 N. Cleveland St. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.