Cultures, Food, and Communities Around the World
3 - 5
Students explore different cultures around the world, compare worldwide communities with local communities, and explain the interrelationship between the environment and community development.
Two 45-minute activities, plus research time for activity two
Interest Approach – Engagement:
- Holiday Foods Around the World PowerPoint Slides
Activity 1: What's for Lunch?
- World map or World Fabric Map*
- Lunch Cards* handout, cut and laminated
- Whiteboard-safe tape or magnets
- What's for Lunch? by Andrea Curtis
Activity 2: Building from the Ground Up
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
agriculture: the science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation and marketing of the resulting products
community : a group of people living in the same place
culture: the customs, arts, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group
tradition : the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation
Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
- About 46 million turkeys are eaten in America each Thanksgiving.1
- It’s believed that the Pilgrims made a similar dish to pumpkin pie but without the crust. Before modern food preservation, pumpkin was typically boiled or roasted, then mixed with spices.2
- Recipes for stuffing date back to Ancient Rome! These recipes suggested stuffing hares, chickens, sardines, and squid to add more flavor.2
Background Agricultural Connections
People around the world have their own unique traditions, from daily household responsibilities and family holidays to religious and historical ethnic customs. Many of these traditions center around food and its preparation. Food is a central element of culture around the world.
For Americans, no Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a barbecue and watermelon. Thanksgiving isn't the same without turkey and mashed potatoes. However, it is important for students to understand that people in different countries have similar feelings about their own traditions and foods. Although their foods may be different, most are equally nutritious and based on the historical traditions of the region.
Today, most people are familiar with many different regional cuisines, and it is easy and convenient to eat foods produced in faraway parts of the country or even other parts of the world. However, it hasn't always been that way. For much of human history, people were limited to the foods that could be produced in their region. Before we had refrigerators and freezers to preserve food, and airplanes to transport food quickly around the world, people had to eat locally. Diets were based on the plants and animals that could thrive locally. The connection between geography, climate, and food production directly influenced the location and development of ancient civilizations. Many ancient civilizations were built on the banks of the rivers where soils were fertile and water for irrigation was readily available. Ancient civilizations practiced agriculture to meet their needs for food, fiber, and other materials. The second activity in this lesson will allow students to get a firsthand look at how geography affects community location and development.
Interest Approach - Engagement
- Begin by asking the students if their families cook any special meals for holidays. Allow the students to share what they eat for different holidays and why they eat that specific meal. Is it a meal that's unique to their family? Is it a common meal that most families in the United States eat?
- Using the Holiday Foods Around the World PowerPoint slides, show the students examples of traditional foods other countries eat during different holidays. Use the following questions to guide a discussion:
- Does anyone in class celebrate any of these holidays? (If students in class celebrate different holidays because of their culture or religion, allow them to share information about that holiday. Help encourage diversity in class and introduce students to other holidays and cultures.)
- What types of foods were shown in the PowerPoint?
- What ingredients do these foods contain?
- Do you cook or bake with the same ingredients?
- Would you try these foods? Why or why not?
Activity 1: What's for Lunch?
- Ask the students what they like to eat for lunch. Allow the students to raise their hands and share some examples with you. Discuss where their food comes from. Did someone grow it? Was it produced from an animal? If possible, bring in examples of food eaten at school lunch that day.
- Project a map of the world that includes labeled countries on the board or use the World Fabric Map.
- Pass out one lunch card from the Lunch Cards handout to each student. (Cut and laminate each lunch card prior to the lesson.) If there are not enough lunch cards for each student, have students pair up and work as a team.
- Explain to the students that on their lunch card is a common lunch item eaten in another country. Allow the students to guess which country eats that lunch item by reading the clues located on each card.
- Using tape or magnets, have each student place their lunch card on the country where they think that food is eaten. If desired, a list of the correct countries can be written on the board to help students with their guesses. The correct countries and food items for the lunch cards are listed below:
- United States: pizza, milk, fruit
- Japan: miso soup, fish
- France: cheese
- Canada: packaged treats, sandwiches
- Brazil: bananas, passion fruit juice, beans
- England: roast beef and gravy, Yorkshire pudding
- Russia: borsch, kasha
- Peru: guinea pig, quinoa
- Afghanistan: biscuits
- China: hot soup, bok choy
- Mexico: torta, toasted grasshoppers
- India: dal
- Kenya: porridge
- Share the book What's for Lunch? by Andrea Curtis with your students. Show students the photographs of lunches from different parts of the world. Discuss the contents of each lunch and the country where it is commonly eaten.
- Allow students to see if their initial guess was correct. If necessary, have students move their lunch card(s) to the correct country as you read.
- Discuss some of the reasons why different foods are more common in different parts of the world. Consider asking the following questions to lead a discussion:
- Why do you think Canada and the United States eat very similar food? (Close to each other geographically, similar cultures, etc.)
- Which countries provide healthy meals for their students? How can you tell? (Discuss certain countries banning soda from school vending machines, serving fresh fruit, etc.)
- If you could choose to eat lunch from another country, which country would you choose? Why?
Activity 2: Building from the Ground Up
- Divide your class into two to four groups or address the class as one group. Assign or allow each group to select a country in South America.
- Pass out a South America Agriculture Map to each group. Have the groups locate their countries on the map, color their assigned country, and put an X where their community will be located.
- Invite the students to pretend that they are the founding members of a rural, underdeveloped area in their selected country. Brainstorm as a class the things they might want to know about their countries before they can successfully build a community (climate, average rainfall, soil type, common crops, etc.) Use the South America Agriculture Map to guide students in their research. Allow students one or two class periods to research their countries.
- Provide each student with a Building From the Ground Up Group Sheet. Have the students establish their new communities by answering questions 1-7 on the group sheet. Allow students to share their new communities with the rest of the class. Encourage students to question one another about their communities. Is anyone able to develop a community without including agriculture?
- Throughout the next week, one day at a time, provide each group with scenarios affecting their communities. You may come up with your own scenarios or use the provided Building From the Ground Up Scenarios. (Keep in mind that some of the provided scenarios are region-specific and will only affect certain countries.) Each group should receive at least three scenarios throughout the week. Ask the groups to decide how they will personally be affected by the scenario and how their entire community will be affected. Allow the group to use problem-solving skills to decide how to deal with the different scenarios. Have groups answer the questions from each scenario. Encourage group members to work together and even suggest they “seek aid” from other communities in other countries. Some groups who have beneficial scenarios might consider helping out a struggling, neighboring community. Consider asking the following questions to lead a class discussion:
- Did your scenario positively or negatively affect your community?
- What crop/livestock was affected?
- How did your community handle the situation?
- Did you seek aid from another community? How were they able to help you?
- How do these scenarios apply to supply and demand?
- At the end of the project, discuss how the communities evolved from the beginning to the end. Discuss the interdependence experienced throughout the project.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key points:
- Food is a central element of culture around the world.
- People around the world have their own unique traditions.
- For much of human history, people were limited to the foods that could be produced in their region.
- Today, most people in the United States have access to foods produced in other parts of the world.
Consider making a recipe from another country in class, or bring samples of food from other countries to class. Discuss traditions or holidays associated with the food.
Ask the students, "What are some foods we eat here in the United States?" After listing a variety of foods, explain that because most Americans came to the United States from other countries, so did much of the food we eat. Identify the countries of origin for the foods the students listed.
Play the My American Farm interactive game Where in the World?
Explore the images found in the What Kids Eat Around the World collection. Discuss student observations of the types of foods kids are eating around the world.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic
- Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
- I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon
- Josias, Hold the Book
- Maddi's Fridge
- Poverty and Hunger
- Sparrow Girl
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
- The Good Garden
- The Hungry Planet
- The Story of Food: An Illustrated History of Everything We Eat
- The Ugly Vegetables
- What's For Lunch?
- Interactive Map: Staple Food Crops of the World
- World Fabric Map
- World Hunger Map
- Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
- TEDMED Talk: What Does the World Eat?
- Food Security & Nutrition Around the World
- Hungry Planet Family Food Portraits
- My American Farm
Deb Spielmaker, Grace Struiksma, Sara Hunt, Bekka Israelsen
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom