Lesson Plans

Food Origins & Issues

Step 1

Photograph and record your entire diet (food and beverages) for a single average day. Be specific with your recordings. For example, if you eat pizza, record exactly where it is from (homemade, frozen Home Run Inn, delivery, Lou Malnottis), what ingredients were used and how much you consumed. If your food is from a restaurant, you will need to ask someone at the restaurant for the ingredients. Be detailed.

Step 2

Research the origins of each ingredient. This includes water, spices, preservatives…everything you consumed! Research whether your food and beverage items include “hidden ingredients”. For example, conventional meat is treated with ammonia, but it is not listed as an ingredient, thus it is a “hidden ingredient.” This should be reported, along with where the ammonia is from. If you consumed “artificial flavor” or "natural flavor,” you need to research what this means and where it is from. Internet searches that bring you to reputable sources, as well as calling and emailing the companies and organizations that manufacture or grow the food will help you with this step of the process. Send your emails and make your calls immediately to allow the companies and organizations ample time to return your emails and calls.

Step 3

Choose one ingredient to conduct in-depth analysis on. You will research the current issue(s) surrounding the ingredient/food/beverage (see first bullet point) and look at the ingredient/food/beverage from a historical perspective as well as the current market/business climate (see second bullet point).

  • What will your focus be regarding this ingredient/food/beverage?  What are the geo-political issues surrounding it? What are the human rights issues surrounding it?  Does it originate in a region of conflict?  Research how it plays a role in that conflict. Is it a major or minor part of the region’s economy?  How has its role in the economy and society changed over time?  How has it remained the same?  What is its role in relationship with the government of that region?  What environmental issues surround it?
  • Is it indigenous to the region that it originates now?  If not, where is it originally from?  Who are the major players now? Why?

Step 4

Create a 3-D globe, map, diorama, etc. that illustrates the origins of each food/beverage item that you consumed (your findings from step 3). Use your photos and information from step 1. Be creative! Wow us! To ensure that you earn the full creativity/aesthetics points, create the map or globe from start to finish. Don’t use a map/globe purchased at a store or found online.

Step 5

What is the estimated environmental impact of your “daily diet” based on step 4?  

Step 6

Create a YouTube video, Poster, PowerPoint, Prezi, etc. to teach us about your research and analysis from step three. (You will also include step six if you aren’t including it in step five).

Step 7

Call to action: What are you doing to ameliorate the issues that you uncovered during your research?  What can your classmates do to improve the situation?  Think about utilizing the following: social media, letters and emails to elected officials, letters and emails to business and organizations that are responsible or involved with the issue, etc. At the conclusion of this project, many of your classmates will follow your advice and write, email, tweet, blog, and post about your issue, so make sure you have the correct names, addresses, email addresses, etc. for us.

Step 8

You will present your findings using the globe/map/diorama along with your YouTube/PowerPoint/Prezi/video.

Educator Notes: 

Prior to or concurrently with this project, I find it helpful to spend a week exploring how food consumption has changed over time with students. Analyzing continutities over time and changes in diets with a special focus on effects of the Agricultural Revolution, the Columbian Exchange, and the Industrial Revolution help students contextualize their current diets and our collective American diet. In addition to exploring food consumption from a historical lens, we also assess diet related health issues and connections with geography and economics. Topics like heart disease in the US and malnutrition in the developing world are examined.

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