FILM

Finding North
By Nate Myrick With on February 01, 2012

Finding North was my favorite documentary of the festival for many reasons, primarily because it not only revealed an issue with society (as all documentaries at Sundance did) but it also offered a potential solution without being dogmatic about it. The issue raised was that of poverty and hunger in the USA. Initially I was skeptical, particularly since the US has the highest percentage per capita of obesity in the world, but that soon changed as the film presented research that linked obesity to poverty. The reasoning went something like this: If you have a very limited income you are going to try to buy the most food you can, and as processed foods are significantly cheaper than fresh ones, it logically follows that to buy enough to eat you will buy what is cheaper. In our context, that means low nutrition processed foods. These processed foods contain plenty of carbohydrates and saturated fat, but do not contain the nutrients needed for proper development and eventual health. The result is people who are overweight yet still hungry, as they are unable to attain the nutrients they need from the food they are eating. This issue hit home for me, as I grew up in one of “Food Desert” counties in the US. Having witnessed this phenomenon with my own eyes, I was able to readily identify with the film’s premise. In the other doc’s I saw I was able to approach the issues they raised from a fairly objective perspective, because they did not tell my story. But I was not able to do so with this one as it was my experience. I fully agree that the advent of processed and preserved foods has severely impacted the agricultural economy of the US by creating a high demand for certain foods such as grain and corn, at the expense of the other foods necessary for proper health, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. This impact has resulted in the ability of low-income families to attain plenty of food, yet not enough of the foods they need to be healthy. The proposed solution to this issue as presented by the film was better regulation of the USDA and a program that subsidizes fresh produce. My one objection to the film lay in this area, as I believe that regulations cannot effect a change on a personal level. And while the film did portray charitable organizations in a favorable light, it also made note of the same dilemma facing them as is facing the impoverished; the cost of nutritious food. A charitable organization or person needs to meet the needs of many hungry people, and so will seek the highest return on investment, the most food per dollar. This inevitably leads to a high volume of low nutrition, processed foods being distributed to the poor through the charities, thus perpetuating the cycle. I see a multi faceted solution that goes beyond the films call for governmental reform. While I agree whole-heartedly that this is needed, I also see a need for better education about healthy foods in conjunction with reform. And I see a need for the church at large to be active in this arena, as many are, but with concern for what they are giving to the hungry. There is plenty of food and money for everyone in the US, but the fundamental issue is personal selfishness and entitlement. Those of us who have enough feel like we have earned it, and feel no obligation to share our blessings with those who have not. This is in direct defiance of Jesus’ and the bible’s teachings regarding the self and others. We were bought at a price, redeemed and blessed by no work of our own, and called to use that blessing for the good of others (1 Cor. 6:20, Eph. 2:8-10, 2 Cor. 9-11, Mat. 5-7).

About the Author: Nate Myrick

2 Responses to "Finding North"

  1. Finding North
    The filmmaker’s contention that America has lost its moral compass is explored in this documentary that explores the rise of hunger in America.  The film states that 1 in 6 Americans go hungry in this country as a result of Congressional policies subsidizing billion-dollar Agri-business, which takes money from school lunch programs, food stamps, and other social programs that assist those in lower-income areas.  These policies also lead to the creation of “food deserts” within our communities, where healthy foods and vegetables are not delivered because the profit margins in these areas is too low to justify the high-cost of distribution for the main food providers.  The effect is that many people living in these areas are forced to eat what is available to them, namely processed foods high in calorie count but low in nutritional value.  The result is a high rate of obesity and deteriorating health, with conditions ranging from asthma to diabetes and congestive heart failure.  Kids are hit especially hard, with their lack of nutrition affecting their school performance and overall ability to focus.  While faith based groups and other community service groups have stepped in to fill the gap for some 49 million Americans who are “food insecure,” the film contends that charity is not the solution.  Rather, the solution depends on government policy that favors domestic spending on nutritional programs as well as supporting local farmers who grow fruits and vegetables.  The result would be a decrease in cost among these items, and allow the average family to afford to eat healthier and avoid going hungry. 

    I found Finding North to be a moving portrayal of a part of modern America that I was unfamiliar with.  While I am part of a church community that regularly serves the poor, and often make donations to local charities that feed the hungry, I was not aware of just much the chronic problem known as “food insecurity” affected our population, largely as a result of the difficulty for many in our country to earn a living that will sustain their families over the long run.  On one hand, I can understand the filmmaker’s desire to lobby our government for a redistribution of money in order to support the diets of lower-income families.  On the other hand, I can’t help but believe that government’s desire to intervene in the free market is what causes these imbalances in the first place. This deep political divide reminds me of Jesus’ words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Will America implode in the face of such a deep ideological division?  Are we spending so much on defense at the expense of what we are trying to defend?  In the end, the question about how best to deal with the problem remains.  It is heart wrenching, to be sure, and this film affected me deeply, both in my understanding of the problem, but also in my level of compassion for those that are obese.  I understand the reason now in ways that I never did before.

  2. In a classroom full fruit like apple students and banana teacher, that would be funny in a cartoon but not from a starving grade school girl’s imagination from her empty stomach. Finding North is an impactful documentary to illustrate how a blessed and bountiful American can have hunger people for 1 out of every 6 American. The document showcase struggling single mom and kids, numerous eye opening statistic showing, jaw dropping public policy, and a loving church and community to provide the basic need of human – food.
    My heart was broken with the parent growing up having instant ramen as breakfast, lunch and dinner who feel shame because she cannot feed her own kid. It is her unwanted nightmare became true.  Hunger may be an indication of other bigger problem like generational poverty. I was upset by this mother saying, ‘you are where from.’ The documentary claimed that general people feel hunger or poor people deserved to be in their situation because they don’t work hard enough. I cannot deny some of them maybe but it is a very complex and deep family/social situation entangled altogether. And, for sure, the hunger child is innocence of the blame but not in reality of their empty belly. 
      In the teaching of Matthew 25:35, it did not have any string attached for feeding the hungry. However, healing in holistic approach would be ideal as well like career development, counseling, and group support. It will be my passion for me to share of what saw from this movie to my fundamentalist inclined church. Share with them putting effort on this social concern program is not necessary to put a $ sign or membership increase related. Just simply give and love. Director said the America hunger cannot be fixed by only small churches or urban farming.  But, I see this opportunity for church to extend love and love invitation to the hunger, walk with them, give them hope and enable them. Historically, church is strong in charity or in another translation, love. My personal conviction is to donate 1/10 of my backyard garden to local food bank.

    by Samuel Lee on Feb 5th, 2012 at 10:50 pm
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