Where does your lunch come from?

Goal: Students will work in small groups to sketch the path specific items on their lunch menu took from the farm to their cafeteria.

Objectives: Students will…

  • Brainstorm using drawings, diagrams and discussion
  • Share their prior understanding of where food comes from and how it gets to their plate
  • Explore the food system
  • Break prepared foods into ingredients

Materials: large paper and writing utensils

Advance Preparation: Get a copy of school lunch menu. You may want to select a meal based on ease of breaking it down into recognizable ingredients. You can even ask the cafeteria workers for a list of what is in the meal and its source company.

*Adapted from copyrighted material by The Food Project. Used with permission.

Time Estimate: 1 class
3 min introduce activity
15 min small groups analyze menu items
15 min Class brainstorm of food system supply chain
5 min Discussion

Where does your lunch come from?*

Instructional Plan
Ingredient Mapping

Have your students select a cafeteria meal from the school menu.

Break students into small groups and have each select one item from the menu (ex. steamed green beans with butter), making sure all menu items are covered. Ask the groups to:

  • make a list of ingredients in their menu item (this is where research with cafeteria staff may come in handy)
  • draw out the process they think it takes to get that menu item onto their school lunch tray.

Allow them to think through all of the steps in the process as a group, asking them to fill in any gaps that you might notice. This is an exercise for them to work through their current knowledge with support from their peers and teacher. Some of the points they should address include:

  • where ingredients came from geographically
  • what animal/plant the ingredients came from
  • what kind of processing happened to the food along the way
  • how was the food transported
  • how was the food stored or sold
  • where the food will end up after it is consumed or thrown away.

Steps in the Food System Supply Chain

As a group, come up with a list of the different types of workers and businesses the food passed through on its way from farm to table. Examples include: producers, suppliers, retailers, distributors, transporters, consumers, processors. Some of these entities may be found several times in your students’ food system map.

Discuss:What are the pros and cons of such a complex food system? What are the good things about it? What impacts might this complex system have on the environment, on people and on food?

Homework:Read “Long Road from Farm to Fork Worsens Food Outbreaks” see pdf or at: http://news.yahoo.com/long-road-farm-fork-worsens-food-outbreaks-090306716.html

Click here to download “Long road from farm to fork worsens food outbreaks” PDF file.