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Educating Students to Fight Hunger


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Hunger is not the condition caused just by a lack of food; hunger is an issue tied to food access, distribution, and utilization. These are among the lessons of Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger, a curriculum about hunger issues tied into World Food Day, October 16. Sponsors of the program hope widespread awareness of hunger will lead to widespread efforts to eliminate it. Included: Examples of lessons from Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger

Imagine a daily meal consisting of rice, greens -- and a few grasshoppers.

For a child in Malawi (Africa), that is a typical meal. Although many people in the United States and other developed countries experience hunger, the magnitude of the problem globally and its effect on all aspects of human life often is difficult to comprehend.

To increase awareness of world hunger and to help find solutions to the problem, an organization called Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger provides teachers with a comprehensive curriculum on hunger issue designed for use on or around World Food Day, which is October 16.

Remembering the Hungry

World Food Day is marked internationally every year on October 16, in recognition of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. The first World Food Day was in 1981. Organizations use the occasion to increase understanding and awareness of hunger issues and to promote ongoing efforts to end hunger worldwide.

World Food Day is marked internationally every year on October 16, in recognition of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. The first World Food Day was in 1981. Organizations use the occasion to increase understanding and awareness of hunger issues and to promote ongoing efforts to end hunger worldwide.

"Most people are not aware of the extent or complexity of world hunger," Patricia Young, national coordinator for Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger and for the U.S. National Committee for World Food Day told Education World. "Access to food is an important issue," Young said, pointing out that although enough food is available to feed the entire world population, almost a billion people are undernourished. "We need young people to begin to get involved."

MANY LANGUAGES CARRY SAME MESSAGE

In the past two years, use of the Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger curriculum has spread quickly across the United States and to other countries. Brochures now are available in five languages; curriculum materials are published in nine languages.

The program provides three lessons at each of three instructional levels: primary, intermediate, and secondary. Food availability, food access, and food utilization are among the lesson topics. All the lessons, which include background information for teachers, are available online.

The lessons make a powerful impact on students. "It stunned the kids into silence," said Marilyn McPheron, student program coordinator for the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Pennsylvania State University, who teaches in a summer program for high school students. "I think it's excellent."

During one activity, McPheron discussed with students the importance of hunger issues. She asked students what they had eaten that day, and then put paper bags in front of the room representing typical meals for a child from Malawi (rice, greens, grasshoppers) and for a child from Haiti (bean sauce over rice or cornbread). One bag also contained a small bottle of cloudy water, representing the limited supply and poor quality of water in some countries.

In addition to using the program with students, McPheron also utilizes Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger as part of Ag in the Classroom, a program designed to teach elementary school teachers how to integrate agricultural issues into their curriculum.

SIMPLIFYING A COMPLEX ISSUE

Other teachers who have used the program said the curriculum was thought-provoking and clear.

Simon Peter Okello, an ethics teacher at St. James Senior School in Uganda, Africa, said Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger fits in well with his curriculum. The program helps students re-think long-standing taboos, including one prohibiting women from eating certain foods, such as chicken. It is good because it sensitizes people to what can be considered good and not," Okello told Education World. His students organized a fundraiser to help fight hunger.

Hundreds of Canadian schools also used the curriculum last World Food Day, Dan Wiens, hunger education coordinator for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, reported to Young. He called the response "phenomenal."

Merilee MacKay, a language arts teacher at Sagemont Virtual High School in Weston, Florida, used the program for the first time last year, and plans to continue using it with her pupils. "I really like the way Feeding Minds is set up," MacKay said. "Many of our kids are well-traveled and comfortable -- and this is eye-opening. It makes them aware of a complexity of issues. They start looking at ways to prevent hunger." Students review case studies, discuss different causes of hunger, explore how shortages occur, and evaluate food systems.

The case studies especially grab students," MacKay said. "It's a great way for students to become aware of issues."