Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Food Insecurity
Lesson 2
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students define food insecurity and scarcity of resources. They use problem-solving to share a scarce resource. Students work in groups to discuss how to be good caretakers of scare resources, such as food, water, and fuel. Then they discuss how these choices affect global issues.


One 45-Minute Session


The learner will

  • define scarcity, resources, food insecurity, opportunity cost and stewardship.
  • identify feasible behaviors that will help sustain scarce resources.


  • food insecurity: the risk or fear of not having consistent access to food that meets people's dietary needs and food preferences; not being sure one will have enough food or the right food to feel full, grow, and be healthy
  • resources: available supply or support that can be drawn on when needed or wanted
  • scarcity: the lack of a resource, such as money, food, education, or housing.
  • opportunity cost: the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made about using scarce resources.
  • stewardship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care  


  • two apples and something to cut them with
  • chart paper and markers (enough for each group of four students to have a piece of paper and a marker)
Handout 1
The Importance of Understanding Hunger

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set

Display the word security on a large piece of paper and ask the students to define it. Through discussion, help them understand that it is a synonym of safety. Now write the prefix in in front of the word security to create the word insecurity and ask how they think this changes the meaning (answer: lack of safety). Then add the word food in front of insecurity. Tell the young people that many people in the world suffer from food insecurity, which means “the risk or fear of not having consistent access to food that meets people's dietary needs and food preferences.”
  • Tell the young people that those things that are available to supply or support our needs or wants are called resources. Discuss how it might feel to be unsure about having enough food and other resources, such as water, clothing, a home for shelter, and schools.
  • Show the apples that you brought to class and tell the students that you have brought them a healthy treat. Ask them to name the food group that apples belong to. Pretend to be unsure of how you will distribute the apples because you have only two and there are more than two young people in the group.
  • Say: “This is a scarce resource - something that can be drawn on when needed or wanted. How can I use this resource wisely?” Suggest that you could give both apples to one child, but you would be upset because you would have nothing to give the other students. Ask for suggestions about how you could distribute the treat. When the group has come to consensus about the best choice for distributing the treat, distribute the apples.
  • While the young people are eating their treat, introduce the word scarcity (the lack of a resource, such as money, food, education, and housing) and opportunity cost (the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made about using scarce resources - the choice to share the apple limits everyone's portion). Ask students to name some resources they or their families need and use every day – water, air, fuel, food, electricity. Ask: Do we have a responsibility to use resources such as food, water, and fuel carefully? Why or why not? (Scarce resources must supply needs globally. If one person/group/country consumes more resources than needed, others will experience scarcity, harming the common good.)
  • Move students into groups. Give each group a large piece of paper and a marker. Assign each group a resource – water, food, air, electricity, or fuel. Tell them to list ways that they can carefully use or protect their limited resource (e.g., not throwing away food, not running the water too long, recycling, riding bikes instead of getting a car ride). Give them five minutes to brainstorm.
  • While students are working in groups, circulate and help them focus on personal and family choices.
  • Have each group display their list for the class to see. Have them report their lists and compare to the other lists in the class.
  • Discuss how these personal choices can make a difference globally (examples: conserving resources is good for the sustainability of the environment and opens the possibility of more fair distribution, reducing consumption keeps the resource clean and available for more people, reducing waste means less pollution). Write the word stewardship on a display area and tell students that if they choose to act on the suggestions to carefully use and protect resources they will be good stewards of global resources, practicing stewardship, which is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.

Youth Voice:

This activity helps students become aware of issues that are important to them, which is an important element of student voice. Encourage students to share their expertise in different areas and seek further information in focus areas, such as preventing pollution, promoting exercise to save fuel, or water conservation. In this lesson students are empowered to solve the immediate problem of a scarcity (apples) and also to determine and take action to preserve and protect global resources. 

Curriculum Connection:

Writing: Have students write an article, a song, or skit to teach others about the importance of being good stewards of scarce resources.

Math: Students may chart or graph found statistics about limited resources and write about it with the following scenario. Their role is of a leader of a country that is running out of a given resource (clean water, fuel, or nutritious soil). The goal is to communicate to the people of the country how to conserve the remaining resource. They provide data and an analysis of their findings so they can motivate their citizens to be good stewards of the remaining resources.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Share some of the "Startling Hunger Facts" from the background information provided (Attachment One). Discuss and compare the numbers and percentages of people who are hungry or food insecure. Discuss why it is every country’s responsibility to work toward reducing food insecurity for all.

Tell students that in 2000, 189 countries in the world agreed to work together to alleviate poverty in the world. They set themselves a goal to reduce by half the number of food insecure people by 2015. They believed that the world has the resources to do it, but they need to make a commitment to work together.

Discuss a goal the students can set with an end time in mind to help support the Millennium Goal (such as write a letter to a representative to support the Millennium Goals).

Reflection: (click to view)

Bibliographical References:

Feeding America--Scroll over the different states to see their hunger statistics and compare: 

FreeRice.com--Practice basic skills while earning rice for hungry people worldwide:
Heifer International--A nonprofit that provides livestock and training to families in need.
World Health Organization Hunger Factsheet--Uplifting and concerning facts about the current state of international hunger. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs290/en/index.html


Handout 1Print Handout 1

The Importance of Understanding Hunger


The Importance of Understanding Hunger
As George Eliot once said, “no man can be wise on an empty stomach.” Without their basic needs met, people are far less likely to improve in other essential areas such as education and economy. How does the health of individuals affect our global health? As responsible global citizens, it is important to make sustainable personal choices and provide resources to help others meet their basic needs. Students have diverse levels of experience with hunger, from awareness to personal experience. Some come from homes with plentiful healthy food choices, while others do not have many healthy choices available to them. The goal of this set of activities is to raise awareness of nutrition needs for all and to empower students to take personal action to make responsible choices about health that are sustainable for themselves and others. In our interconnected world, global citizens share resources and learn from one another. By teaching students the about the prevalence of hunger and international famine, you can provide them with the foundation they need to make life-long choices with awareness of their own impact on others. Providing students with interesting facts and up-close looks at the state of international hunger will help to engage them in taking action and bolster their understanding of the issue.
A Closer Look: Some Startling Facts about Hunger across the Globe
·         “852 million people worldwide suffer from hunger, a number greater than the populations of the U.S., Canada and the European Union combined.” (www.dosomething.orgaccessed October 5, 2010)
·         “Malnutrition affects a child's intellectual development. Malnourished children often score significantly lower on math and language achievement tests than do well-nourished children.” (www.dosomething.orgaccessed October 5, 2010)
·         “More than 16,000 children die each day from hunger-related conditions. Almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries. Africa and Asia suffer from the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition. (www.dosomething.orgaccessed October 5, 2010)
·          “Currently, kids are consuming 25% of their daily calories between meals, compared with 18% in 1977. That means kids are eating about a meal's worth of calories from snacks.” (USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2001-04-30-kids-snack.htm)
·         A report released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that 36.2 million Americans, including 12.4 million children, are food insecure, or didn’t have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives. Almost a third of those, 11.9 million adults and children, went hungry at some point. That’s 691,000 children who went hungry in 2007, up from 430,000 in 2006. The highest rates of food insecurity are in families headed by single mothers (30.2%), black households (22.2%), Hispanic households (20.1%), and households with incomes below the official poverty line (37.7%).States with families reporting the highest prevalence of food insecurity during 2005-2007 were Mississippi (18.4%), New Mexico (15%), Texas (14.8%) and Arkansas (14.4%). (www.dosomething.orgaccessed October 5, 2010)
A Comparative Look:
Students need to understand that hunger is a worldwide problem. Just as importantly, they need to realize how widespread hunger is within the United States. Below is a graph with a random sampling of nations from continents around the globe. This may be used as a resource in the context of the upcoming activities. When presenting this to students, encourage them to voice their predictions about the state of health in the given countries before allowing them to examine the data. Students are encouraged to compare these numbers and see how they match up with their initial expectations. 
Food-related health issues involve nutrition, undernourishment, food security, fitness and exercise, and nutrition-related diseases. Some of these issues are based on personal choices, but many are determined by opportunities and availability of resources. The health of people across the world affects and determines political and economic decision-making.
Although the majority of hungry people live in developing countries, hunger is also an issue in developed countries. (Food and Agriculture Organization http://www.fao.org/hunger/faqs-on-hunger/en/)
Below is a list of the number of hungry people spanning different regions of the world:
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 239 million
  • Asia and the Pacific: 578 million
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: 53 million
  • Near East and North Africa: 37 million
  • Developed Countries: 19 million

Philanthropy Framework:

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