Despite the relative affluence of the Tri-Valley, many of its residents continue to fall victim to food insecurity -- not knowing how they'll afford their next meal.

That was the message conveyed Jan. 16 at the Firehouse Arts Center during a free screening of the award-winning documentary "A Place at the Table: One Nation Underfed." About 175 people turned out to view the film and hear an update on hunger in the Tri-Valley presented by Linda McKeever, executive director of Open Heart Kitchen.

"This seems so far away, but I want to talk to you about Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore," she said. "I want to talk to you about your neighbors."

Last year Open Heart Kitchen served 281,000 hot meals to a wide range of recipients, up from 237,000 meals in 2011 and 263,000 meals in 2012, McKeever said.

"You may ask "Who are we seeing?' " she said. "We are seeing the underemployed in our community. I can take you to see places here where three and four families per household are living together, or to Walmart parking lots, where people with children in school with your own children are living in their cars because they have nowhere else to live."

The film focused on three families struggling to feed their children, and discussed the economic and cultural implications of such deprivation for the nation. Insight was provided by experts including actor and hunger activist Jeff Bridges, Tom Colicchio of TV's "Top Chef" and author Raj Patel.


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During a question-and-answer session after the film, McKeever told audience members Open Heart Kitchen offers many options for anyone interested in helping local residents who face hunger every day.

"There are many small ways to help; it's not all about large dollars," she said. "You can volunteer to help us in the kitchen, you can donate to us, or you can grow a garden for us. Something like that helps cut our cost and get good healthy meals to people in need. "

The film confirmed what many audience members already knew through their volunteer efforts.

"The need is there," said Doug Huey, of Pleasanton. "People don't think about it amid all the richness here in the Valley."

Shirley Francies was at the film with other members of the outreach committee of Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasanton.

"A lot of people think there are no hungry people in Pleasanton," she said. "But it's what they say -- a lot of individuals are supplementing what they have. It just doesn't go as far."

Those finding themselves in need of food support can be anyone, McKeever told the audience.

"These are your neighbors, your friends, our community," she said. "It's only through compassion that we can do what we do in this area."

OPEN HEART KITCHEN
For more information on Open Heart Kitchen, volunteer opportunities, or the time and location of free meals, visit www.openheartkitchen.org or call 925-580-1616.