Global Food Security
9 - 12
Students will explore the causes of hunger, both domestically and globally; evaluate potential solutions for solving world hunger; and forecast the impact of a growing world population on current food supplies. Grades 9-12
Two 50-minute class periods
- World Food Programme HungerMap Live
- Note: a static hunger map can be found if you click on "undernourishment" at the bottom of the page. It includes data from 2017-2019.
- Food Security Handout: Survey (1 copy)
- Food Security Handout: Results (1 copy)
- Food Security Handout: Cards (print 1 sheet; cut out cards)
- Internet access for each student OR for instructor (to project for class)
- Map the Meal Gap website
- Food Access Research Atlas
- A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World National Geographic article
- Revolutionizing the Way We Grow Food National Geographic Live video
famine: when people face a complete lack of access to food and other basic needs and experience mass starvation, death, and destitution
food desert: defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food
food insecurity: a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life
food security: the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food
Green Revolution: beginning in the mid-20th century, a large increase in crop production in developing countries achieved by the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and high-yield crop varieties
hunger: an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach that is caused by the need for food; when a person cannot get enough of the right kinds of foods to be healthy
malnutrition: a condition resulting when a person’s diet does not provide adequate nutrients for growth and maintenance
Millennium Development Goals: endorsed by the United Nations in September 2000, eight measurable goals were declared as a commitment to build a safer, more prosperous, and equitable world with a target date of 2015
Sustainable Development Goals: adopted in September 2015, this set of 17 goals seeks to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda; each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years
undernourishment: not getting enough food or not getting enough variety of healthy food for good health and growth
Did You Know?
- With proper tools and investment, agriculture output in Africa could increase over 200% by 2030.1
- In countries around the world, cost is the primary factor in food choice.2
- Malnutrition affects every country on Earth and more than one-quarter of the world’s population.3
- The increasing demand for affordable meat, milk, and eggs means the world will need 60% more animal-sourced foods.4
Background Agricultural Connections
What is food security? The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines food security as all people, at all times, having physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Using this definition, the FAO identifies four dimensions of food security:
- Physical AVAILABILITY of food
- Economic and physical ACCESS to food
- Food UTILIZATION
- STABILITY of the other three dimensions over time5
Conversely, food insecurity exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.
The Millennium Development Goals endorsed by the United Nations as a commitment to build a safer, more prosperous, and equitable world, included a hunger target (1c). This target was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. The FAO reports that developing nations as a whole have nearly met the 1c target. However, wide differences persist across regions. “Some have made rapid progress in reducing hunger: Latin America as well as the Eastern and South-Eastern regions of Asia have all achieved both the MDG 1c hunger target...The MDG 1c target has been reached in the Caucasus and Central Asia and in the Northern and Western regions of Africa. Progress has also been recorded in the Caribbean, Oceania, Southern Asia, and Southern and Eastern Africa, but at too slow a pace to reach the MDG 1c target. Finally, Central Africa and Western Asia are moving away from the hunger targets, with a higher proportion of undernourished in the population now than in 1990–92.”6
On January 1, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit — officially came into force. Over the next fifteen years, with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and aim to do more to end all forms of poverty via calls to action by all countries and all peoples. The SDGs are not legally binding, but governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 goals.
Chronic hunger— consuming less than a minimum level of kilocalories—can lead to malnutrition whereby a person’s diet does not provide adequate nutrients for growth and maintenance. In some instances, a widespread scarcity of food known as famine is caused by several factors including crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.
Although food security is a global problem, it is also a problem that is prevalent domestically. According to a 2015 report by USDA’s Economic Research Service, “14.0 percent of U.S. households were food insecure at least some time during , including 5.6 percent with very low food security, meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.”7 Children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.4 percent of US households with children (3.7 million households), meaning these households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
One of the factors contributing to US household food insecurity is the existence of urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. These food deserts are found throughout the United States where grocery stores are nearly non-existent in a specific area, and consumers must rely on restaurants and convenience stores for food. Fresh, nutritious food is often replaced by processed foods or is simply not available. This lack of access to fresh food can lead to poor diets and may result in higher rates of obesity and other dietary-related illnesses.
- Project the World Food Programme HungerMap Live for the class to see.
- On poster paper or a whiteboard, write “WHY?”
- Engage students in a discussion as to why undernourishment is present in a particular country. The map shows the distribution of the global population that is suffering from inadequate dietary energy.
- Invite students to write their answers to the question. Factors to be considered include geographical location, politics, the state of natural resources, conflict, education, technology, poverty, food distribution, and natural disasters.
Explore and Explain
Activity 1: Household Food Security Activity
Note: This activity replicates a 2015 survey conducted by USDA regarding food security in US households. Although the “responses” indicated by the response cards are based on fact, this activity does not imply that the responses are specific to your students. Please use your discretion in conducting this activity, especially in cases where the results may be too close to reality for your students.
- “For this activity, one of you will ask questions from an actual US government survey designed to measure levels of household food security.”
- Ask for a volunteer.
- Give them the Food Security Handout: Survey.
- “One of you will interpret the results of the survey.”
- Ask for a second volunteer.
- Give them the Food Security Handout: Results.
- “Some of you will respond to the survey questions based on answers given to you on note cards. Your collective responses will reflect the state of food security in the United States., as it was measured in 2010. Because questions of food security are very personal, we won’t ask you to respond on behalf of your actual household.”
- Ask for 20 volunteers. Distribute the Food Security Handout: Cards among these students.
- Each student represents roughly 6 million US households. Have these students stand in line, facing the same direction.
- If there are more cards than students, place each extra card on the ground, in line with the standing students, to represent the remaining households.
- Have the first volunteer proceed with the survey. In response to each question, students will remain in place or take one or two steps forward to illustrate their responses.
- Once the survey is complete, have the second volunteer interpret the results (see Food Security Handout: Results for details).
- As individual students OR as a class, go to the Map the Meal Gap website and scroll to the Food Insecurity Rates map.
- Assign a county to each student to explore, OR explore the county in which the school is located. Ask the following questions of students:
- What is the food insecurity rate in the county?
- What is the average cost of a meal?
- In order to meet the food needs of the insecure population in the county, how much additional money is required in this county?
- Show students the Food Access Research Atlas.
- Zoom in on the map to identify the nearest food deserts to the town in which your school is located. Select the Low Income & Low Access Layers and the Component Layers to identify the areas of low income and access near your school.
- Lead a class discussion about hunger, food insecurity, low income, and low food access in your town, county, and state. What factors influence the food insecurity rates?
Activity 2: Feeding the World
- Assign students to read A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World by National Geographic.
- Instruct them to write pro or con responses to the five-step plan for feeding a world of 9 billion people.
- Lead a group discussion in which students share their written responses.
- Show students the video Revolutionizing the Way We Grow Food (10:20 duration). Instruct students to note Caleb Harper’s solutions for growing enough food to feed the world’s increasing population.
- Lead a class discussion, asking students to evaluate the feasibility of Mr. Harper’s solutions.
Activity 3: The Future of Food
- Assign the following readings to students prior to class:
- Using the information from Consequence Wheel/Future Wheel reference, explain to students how to construct a future wheel. It is important to remember that this forecasting technique follows an “if, then” format. “If” this event occurs, “then” this is the result. For example, “if” the population reaches 9 billion by 2050, “then” food shortages will occur. OR, “if” new food production technologies are invented, “then” food shortages will be alleviated. It is possible that both scenarios are included in one future wheel as a result of brainstorming consequences.
- Divide the class into groups of four students. Assign the topic/issue of “9 Billion Mouths to Feed in 2050” for the center of their future wheels. Give students time to brainstorm as many consequences (“if/then”) as they can create.
- Each group of students will draw their future wheel and share their future predictions, as time allows.
Watch Population & Food: Crash Course Geography #16. This video illustrates the link between population and food energy to begin seeing the complexities of a growing population and providing enough food and water for everyone while supporting a sustainable environment.
Enlist students to plan a service project that addresses hunger issues in your area.
If there is a food bank in close proximity to your school, invite an employee or volunteer to speak with your students about hunger and food insecurity in your area.
Challenge students to draw von Thünen’s Rural Land Use Model for a specific food desert location (use the Food Access Research Atlas) and identify the accessible, healthy foods that urban gardens might provide as a solution to the desert.
Arrange a classroom gallery walk using Peter Menzel’s Hungry Planet posters (see Companion Resources). Instruct students to evaluate the amount of money families spend on food and what foods families eat in different countries. Compare these countries based on their levels of development (economic, social, political, and environmental).
Note: This enriching activity was highly recommended by lesson pilot teachers. You may want to incorporate it into your curriculum as time allows.
Show students the documentary, A Place at the Table (available on Netflix). Following the viewing, ask students the following questions. Encourage them to consider the geographical, cultural, and social factors involved.
- What facts did you learn about hunger? Which one is the most startling, and why?
- In 2010, Feeding America—the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity—conducted a hunger study in which they found that 23% of the adults interviewed have attended college or a technical school. What resources or procedures, in addition to education, might help solve hunger issues?
- Eighty-five percent of families that are food insecure have at least one working adult in the household. Do you find that surprising? Why or why not?
- In the film we learn that in the ‘60s, there was a huge push to end childhood hunger that resulted in free breakfast and lunch programs, senior meal programs, and the expansion of food stamps. As a result, by the late ‘70s, hunger was basically eradicated. Why do you think hunger has come back as such a pressing issue in our country?
- One in three children born in the year 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes (formerly called “adult onset”). What are some of the factors that add to the reasons why diet-related illness is increasing in young people at such an unprecedented level?
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Production and distribution of food is affected by the relationships between geography, politics, and economics.
- Developed and under-developed countries face both similar and very different economic challenges that affect agriculture and food security.
- The Green Revolution increased agricultural productivity around the world and created significant environmental consequences.
- Elanco Animal Health. International Consumer Attitudes Study. Updated June 2013. Data on File.
Activity 1 was adapted with permission from The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future FoodSpan Food Security Activity.
Doug Andersen (UT), Nancy Anderson (UT), Paul Gray (AR), Ken Keller (GA), Lisa Sanders (MN), Sharon Shelerud (MN), Allison Smith (UT), Kelly Swanson (MN)
Recommended Companion Resources
- Crop Intensity Maps
- Dirt to Dinner
- Dirt-to-Dinner: Food Matters
- FAOSTAT: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division
- Food Facts: 7 Reasons to Eat Insects
- Hungry Planet Family Food Portraits
- Interactive Map: Staple Food Crops of the World
- Nutrient Supply Activity
- Population, Sustainability, and Malthus: Crash Course World History video
- TEDMED Talk: What Does the World Eat?
- The Complexities of our Global Food System
- The Man Who Tried to Feed the World
- World Population History
National Agriculture in the Classroom
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