Two important Salem area institutions are joining forces to increase awareness of hunger in our community, and bring relief as well.

On April 30th, Salem Cinema and Marion-Polk Food Share will host a benefit screening of, “A Place at The Table,” a 2012 documentary that investigates hunger in the United States.  Proceeds will support the work of the food agency that provides 8.2 million pounds of food to area residents per year.

The film investigates the reasons 50 million people in the United States experience hunger today.   It questions why one in four children don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite our country having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all.  It interweaves personal stories of three Americans who struggle with food insecurity with interviews of experts and activist Academy-award winner Jeff Bridges.

Viewers are introduced to a single mom who is trying to give her two children a better life, a fifth-grader who depends on friends and neighbors for food and a second-grader whose health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

How can so many be both hungry and obese?  Bridges says, about the crisis, “It’s about patriotism really. If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

“This film directly relates to the situation in our community,” says says Eileen DiCicco, Media Relations at the Food Share.  “It draws attention to the challenges facing families right here in Marion and Polk Counties… We’re hoping people’s eyes are opened, their minds stimulated and they are inspired to do more on a personal level.”  She praises the help the Food Share receives from its corporate partners (Wallmart, Roth’s, Trader Joe’s, among others) as well as all the individual donors.

“Our supporters are particularly important because they contribute on a monthly basis [starting at $5 a month.]  Because we have them we can plan, and we can keep moving forward…We couldn’t purchase food on our own.”
The collaboration came as an inspiration of Salem Cinema owner, Loretta Miles, who contacted the Food Share after deciding to run the film.  “Loretta’s always on the lookout for films that will highlight Marion-Polk Food Share, says DiCicco, with gratitude.  Miles has established a program, REEL CHANGE For Our Community which she calls, “an opportunity for me, as a local business woman who truly cares for Salem and its many citizens, to give back and hopefully help to make Salem a more vital city.”

In Miles’ “REEL CHANGE” program, Salem Cinema partners with local non-profit organizations to provide an evening of film as a fundraising event, giving people the opportunity to enjoy a night out while supporting a worthy cause. So far it has raised over $3K for various causes.

“I’ve partnered with Marion Polk Food Share in the past,” Miles says, “and feel the work they do is of the utmost importance… In fact, I can think of no cause more urgent than providing food for the hungry.”

Rick Gaupo, Marion-Polk Food Share president and CEO, will speak briefly before the screening.  Gaupo is personally excited about the film.  “If nothing else,” he says, “it will cause us to pause and consider our commitment to providing people with healthy food and shortening the lines at local food pantries and community meal sites.”

Tickets are now on sale at Salem Cinema with a discount given to those who donate food to the regional food bank. With a donation of two nonperishable food items, advance tickets are $10 each and day-of-show tickets are $12. Without a food donation, tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

Salem Cinema will also have a theatrical run of “A Place At The Table” beginning Friday, May 3rd. Admission will be discounted with food donations throughout the run of the film.