This guest post was written by Sara Hamilton, a local artist who has been living in Spartanburg for six years. She is a regular volunteer at Hub-Bub who enjoys making art, rummaging at thrift stores, listening to music, and being with friends.
For the last four years, Hub-Bub has been partnering with local non-profits to put on a free weekly film series in late winter called Green Screen, so named because the films chosen tend to have an environmental and/or healthy living focus. After each film a panel discussion is held, and the audience is encouraged to participate in a dialog with the panelists. Usually the panel consists of several local people who specialize in a topic related to the film’s focus. The Green Screen idea has really taken off, and continues to draw good sized crowds to The Showroom each week during the series. This year the partner organizations are the Hub City Farmers Market, the Hub City Co-op, Partners for Active Living, and Upstate Forever. Also, new for this year, the YMCA of Greater Spartanburg signed on as a sponsor for the series.
Wednesday night was the fifth film in this year’s Green Screen series, a documentary called Food Stamped. This film addresses a topic that is both startling and compelling, and very relevant: Is it really possible to eat a healthy diet on a food stamp budget? Most folks I know have experienced the crunch of scrounging for food money until that next paycheck, but this movie focuses on that group of people who fall below the poverty line and thus are eligible for food stamps. It’s a surprising one out of every eight Americans.
With shocking graphics and statistics, the film chronicles the rise of obesity in America and draws a strong connection between the size of our waists and the size of our wallets. While we continue to get fatter and develop more health problems, the price of healthy, fresh food is soaring, and the price of junk food continues dropping. A shocking fact the film reveals: the current generation of American children is expected to be the first generation ever to have shorter lifespans than their parents. An audible gasp went up from the audience when that was reported.
All of this is juxtaposed with the project of a California nutrition educator named Shira Potash. She and her husband decided to see if they could eat a healthy diet for a week on a food stamp budget. The idea was born in 2007, when four members of Congress decided to try living on a food stamp budget for a week (The Congressional Food Stamp Challenge: http://foodstampchallenge.typepad.com/my_weblog/about_the_challenge/ ) Shira’s results are interesting, though not overly surprising. You might be able to scrimp by on a food stamp budget, but eating healthy is going to be a much greater challenge. Trying to do it on a long term basis would seem a grim prospect to anyone, and from that perspective, it’s not hard to see why our country’s health is getting worse.
The film also does a good job of interspersing humor and hope with the bleak picture it paints. It highlights some advocates who are working to change this problem by teaching nutrition education in schools, and by bringing healthy food to impoverished neighborhoods. Shiva and her husband also retain their senses of humor during the project, and that comes through in the film. Coupled with the advocacy focus, it keeps you from merely feeling depressed about a situation that you are powerless to change. Instead I came away with a greater awareness of this issue and its causes, and a desire to tweak my own diet to support a healthier standard of living. I also realized the importance of focusing on nutrition education when children are young, so that they never learn to be dependent on sugary, processed foods that will shorten their lifespans and decrease their quality of life. An even better realization came when I stuck around for the panel discussion afterward and discovered what is happening locally to address this issue. I found out that individuals right here in Spartanburg can get involved and make a difference.
Nikki Smith from the Hub City Farmers Market was on the panel, along with Laura Stille, who is a local nutrition educator. They discussed measures being taken right here in town to combat this particular correlation between income and health. Did you know that the Hub City Farmers Market accepts food stamps? That’s right, they do! Apparently many farmers markets across the country are doing so in an effort to combat the problem. It’s hard for them though, because many food stamp recipients do not realize this is an option for them (so spread the word). Also, through a collaboration between the HCFM and Partners for Active Living, there is now a Mobile Market refrigerated truck that travels around to areas of the city without easy access to fresh food. Fresh, local fruits and vegetables are sold right out of the truck to people in these communities.
Hearing about the ways our small city is targeting national scale issues is inspiring and empowering, and it fosters a wonderful sense of community and connectedness between people. That is frequently the thing that keeps me coming back to Hub-Bub events over the years: the sense of connectedness. Green Screen is just one of the ways Hub-Bub encourages citizen involvement and collaboration between people and groups. If you would like to take part in this educational and informative series, you can catch the next film, The Bicycle Thief, this Wednesday night at 7 pm at the Showroom. I would also encourage you to stick around for the panel discussion afterward.