“Empty Cupboards” – A new documentary by The Hudson Cove Group, Inc.

The challenges to keep our country fed are greater than ever. Today, 41 million people currently receive emergency food in the form of SNAP benefits. Many more are not eligible for SNAP but do meet the guidelines for help from food pantries. Still others are food insecure but don’t have access to any feeding programs at all.

The number of SNAP recipients is decreasing, in part, due to a slightly improved economy for individuals in that demographic but also due to cuts or changes in the program itself.

The federal government is poised to make deeper and more egregious cuts in the SNAP program, which will put millions at risk of losing benefits entirely, having them reduced, partially replaced by other types of food programs or reliant on work-fare programs that may be unrealistic. In addition, as people hear more about the improving economy, donations, both financial and in-kind, decrease as donors feel there is less need.

Today, the income disparity is wider than ever before, as more realized benefit goes to those at the top and less goes to the widening bottom. This helps to create “food deserts,” where neighborhoods have no source of fresh food, as in supermarkets or grocery stores and inadequate transportation to where those food sources are. The result is people living off fast food in greater numbers. While this provides calories, it provides woefully inadequate real nutrition and the subsequent health care costs rise at an alarming pace.

The hungry also have to contend with a growing national attitude dismissing parts of America’s hunger story. Real and perceived claims of recipients acting fraudulently, being lazy and not wanting to work, being undocumented or otherwise scamming the system are growing. The president’s Council of Economic Advisers recently said the battle against poverty is “largely over and a success.” This gives cover to what will be an aggressive effort to cut into benefits. Combine that with the tax legislation that gives huge benefits to the wealthiest among us without an increase in minimum wages or increased overtime legislation at the lower rungs of the job ladder. We can be assured that when the federal spending legislation is presented and finalized, there will be some degree of cuts to hunger program and the associated exclamations of “good riddance.” Then what happens? Cutting benefits doesn’t correlate with a reduction in hunger.

This takes place while more than 40% of food manufactured in the United States ends up being discarded before it can be used. It is enough to feed those who are seriously food insecure. Changes in outmoded label laws can also help guarantee the hungry can get fed as well. Far too much usable, healthy food is discarded due to manufacturer-established label laws which are designed to turn product on shelves more than they are there to protect people.

“Empty Cupboards” looks at the state of hunger, centering on Rockland County, NY, but being representative of most counties in the country. It will examine:

• The state of hunger in Rockland County and the US
• Who is hungry?
• How are they being counted? 
• How are they receiving food and nutrition? 
• Do we have adequate “soup kitchens” to feed people?
• What happens to a child when he or she is hungry?
• What can a local government do to help?
• What is the level of fraud in the SNAP program?
• What impact is the groundswell of anti-poor or immigrant rhetoric having on feeding people?
• Are US policies abroad helping or hurting the state of hunger here?
• What programs are currently or are targeted for serious reduction?
• How is ICE and the immigration issue impacting food delivery to those who need it?
• Is there an increase in grass roots effort to feed the hungry? What are the challenges?
• How is the community of like-minded people coming together to help the hungry?
• How do we lift people out of poverty and therefore off hunger relief rolls?
• What across-the-board steps can be taken to fight hunger?

To make the key points, we will interview people with different views on where Rockland hunger is. Included will be:

• People suffering from hunger or food insecurity
• Management and staff from food suppliers, food banks and pantries
• Elected officials
• Donors to food pantries or other hunger relief organizations 
• Non-hungry consumers
• Experts on hunger
• Community and hunger activists
• People who have risen out of hunger
• Poverty experts

“Empty Cupboards” is written, produced and directed by Joe Allen. Director of Cinematography is Chris Kehnle. Principal photography will commence during Hunger Action Month, September 2018.

The documentary will be completed and available by the end of 2019. It will be just under an hour in length and will require $50,000-$60,000 to produce. 

“Tomorrow’s Hopes Fund,” part of the Rockland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3), will produce the film, making any financial participation tax deductible.

It will be distributed via Amazon.com, as well as through Tomorrow’s Hopes Fund, the Rockland Community Foundation, People to People, Inc. and other entities. It will also be made available to non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, film festivals, educational institutions, community organizations, etc.

Help support our project with your tax-deductible donation. You may either donate by PayPal or credit card by clicking the Donate button above, or by check payable to Rockland Community Foundation (be sure to put Empty Cupboards in the memo line). Mail to: Rockland Community Foundation, PO Box 323, New City NY 10956. Thank you!