December 20, 2016
For many people, the holiday season is a fun time, celebrating with family, friends and food. But this is not the case for everyone—and teachers can help students learn about food insecurity and raise awareness of hunger. Despite the ease with which many of us buy, prepare and eat delicious meals during the holidays, one in seven households in the United States suffers from food insecurity. What does food insecurity in a household look like? People who live in a food-insecure household may be forced to skip meals, be unable to afford balanced meals, and worry their food will run out before they can afford to buy more. Families who depend on free school-provided meals may face additional hardship during the holiday season (or, for that matter, on the weekends and during weather-related school closures).
One resource both teachers and parents can use to teach students and children about food insecurity is the FoodSpan Curriculum. FoodSpan is a free, downloadable high school curriculum that highlights critical issues in the food system and empowers students to make responsible food choices. FoodSpan’s lesson on hunger and food insecurity encourages students to consider how to measure hunger and food insecurity, examine community food availability, and explore interventions. The lesson materials include a lesson plan, student handouts, presentation slides, and the short documentary film Food Frontiers and discussion guide.
One of the lesson’s main activities teaches students about community food security and food deserts. This activity begins with students brainstorming what features of a community might affect people’s ability to get enough healthy food. Next, students explore what criteria define a food desert. Then, students use handouts with maps of three different Baltimore neighborhoods to visualize food deserts and and analyze how peoples’ access to healthy food can differ depending on where they live. By understanding what food deserts are and how to identify them, students will be able to better understand how to reduce the number of food deserts.
In addition to raising awareness, FoodSpan also encourages students to think about what food insecurity looks like in their own communities, and the actions they can take outside of the classroom. The film Food Frontiers showcases six inspiring projects improving healthy food access in the United States, from a healthy school lunch program in California to a student-run grocery store in Nebraska. Students can apply what they learned in the lesson by designing an intervention with guidance from FoodSpan’s Food Citizen Action Project.
Perhaps a fresh way to start the new year is to make a commitment to creating awareness among students so that this year will be less hungry than the one before.