'Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.'
World Food Day, an event promoted by the United Nations' World Agricultural Organisation is held on October 16th. This year's theme revolves around climate change and agriculture. How can we approach this theme in class? And why is it so important that we do?
We need to eat to survive, and as a consequence, food, diets and eating habits are part of every English course book, and are recurring themes not only in everyday conversations but in exams as well, either in reading or writing tasks. Learning the vocabulary of food, food preparation and a healthy diet is an essential step in our learning, but looking at the question of food from different perspectives creates a deeper and wider context for the theme. We have collected some activities and projects to help you bring this theme into your classrooms, both with young learners, teens and young adults.
Talking about food with teens and young adults
Set the context
'Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.' Video-based discussion.
1 Brainstorm ideas around one of the following themes:
- FOOD ISSUES - ZERO HUNGER - FOOD SUSTAINABILITY - FOOD WASTE
3 Ask your students how many of their own ideas they see represented in this video.
4 While they are watching the video, ask them to look for at least five issues addressed by the video.
5 Ask students to guess which countries are represented in the video. Study the geography, climate and demographics of these countries to see what may be the causes for any food and agricultural issues.
Write an essay or a report
Building on the ideas discussed above and the questions raised by the video, ask your students to write a short reflective essay about the theme. Alternatively, they can research food issues and sustainable development in one of the countries represented in the video.
Use the UN FAO World Food Day website to collect information.
Food issues in the past
A good way of studying a theme is looking at the history of the problem. How has our relationship with food changed? Today we face both the issues of obesity and hunger, we talk about healthy diets, food and poverty in the same newspapers on the very same day.
Looking behind this problem we can see how much our societies have changed over the last decades. One way of exploring a historical era and its issues is by reading stories from the period we would like to study. An excellent resource for this exploration is Charles Dickens as most of his novels address the social issues of his time.
Use the power of images
Show the illustration on the right to your students. Ask them if they know which story this scene come from. If they do not have a recollection of the story, ask them to describe the image and guess the period it is set in. Invite your students to look for a story in this image. Who is the boy? Where are they? Who are the other children? What is happening? Why is the man on the right so angry?
Read and talk about Oliver Twist
If they do not know the story, you can either read the original or the adapted version of the novel.
After reading (or even watching) the story, you could discuss the question of food and poverty.
- Why didn't people have much to eat?
- What did they eat?
- Where did they grow food?
Here's a lesson plan to talk about life in Victorian London.
A contemporary link: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
"What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by?" Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Do your students know other examples of food issues in contemporary young adult fiction or film? Ask them for examples and then discuss the The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. What are the food issues in the film? What are the reasons for starvation? How is food represented in the rich palaces? What is the importance of food during the Hunger Games?
Examples in real life
Although the The Hunger Games trilogy paints a dystopian picture of a society in serious trouble, the reality of food issues is realistic. Ask your students to put the words 'starvation', 'hunger' and 'food sustainability' in a search engine to look for articles. Create a report of the current state of these themes in a country.
Talking about food with young learners
Although we might not want to address serious food issues with our young learners, we can read and talk about the importance of food and caring for our future in an implicit way through stories. Read Food for the Winter, a story about collecting and sharing food, seen through the experiences of a community of chipmunks. The story was written by Rick Sampedro and illustrated by Estella Guerrera. In the story, the readers learn the importance of sharing what we have so everyone has access to food.