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Could Newly Discovered Food Save Childhood Hunger?


Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts


--Physical Science

Social Studies
--Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

A new kind of food called Plumpynut is helping doctors fight childhood hunger in Africa.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, write Niger on a board or chart. Ask students if they know where Niger, pronounced nee-ZHAYR (rhymes with see there), is located. If students are not aware of Niger, point out on a world map its location in Western Africa. Niger borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east. You might also share some of these facts about Niger.

  • Niger is a landlocked country that takes its name from the Niger River.
  • It is located along the border between the Sahara and Sub-Saharan regions. Much of the country is desert-like. The climate is very hot and dry.
  • Only about 15 percent of the countrys land is fit for growing crops; most of that land is in the southern part of the country.
  • Niger is almost twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas; it is the world's 22nd largest country.
  • According to the United Nations, Niger is the poorest country in the world.
  • Nigers largest export is uranium. Uranium accounts for 72 percent of Nigers export income.

    News Words

    Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: powdered, medicine, nutrition, exposed, undernourished, cure, fortunate, and solution. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • Dr. Jackson prescribed _____ to help clear up the redness in Malcolms eyes. (medicine)
  • The news showed video of _____ children in India who looked like nothing but skin and bones. (undernourished)
  • Lawmakers hope to find a _____ to the global warming problem. (solution)
  • Jacob added _____ chocolate to the milk to make chocolate milk. (powdered)
  • I think youre _____ to have curly hair," Oliver said. (fortunate)
  • Our class helped raise money to find a _____ for diabetes. (cure)
  • Be sure to wear sunscreen if you are going to be _____ to the sun for more than 15 minutes. (exposed)
  • Exercise and good _____ are the keys to a long life. (nutrition)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story New Food Saves Lives, Could End Hunger.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
    • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
    • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
    • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.


  • The relief group Doctors Without Borders says Plumpynut may be the most important advancement ever in the fight against hunger. It's a revolution in nutritional affairs," Dr. Milton Tectonidis of Doctors Without Borders told the TV show 60 Minutes.
  • Plumpynut is a simple concoction: it is basically a sweet peanut butter paste. The big advantage over other foods that can be used to fight hunger is that Plumpynut doesn't need refrigeration, water, or cooking. It is high in energy and high in protein.
  • As a result of malnutrition, many of the worlds hungry children are small for their age. They may not look like all skin and bones, but they lack the height and weight of normal" children their age.
  • One key to helping malnourished children is to get to them early. Doctors say the first years of a childs life are most important. If a child is well fed until age two or three years of age, he or she will have a strong start on a healthy life. Once children are very sick, Plumpynut might not help save them.
  • The most difficult time of year in Niger is called the hunger season." That is the period of time just before the new harvest. Food supplies from the previous harvest are depleted. In many cases, all that is left is millet. Mothers pound the millet seed into porridge. But millet has few nutrients. It is really nothing more than birdseed.
  • In one area of Niger where Plumpynut has been used, the malnutrition rate has gone from being the highest in the country to the lowest. Mothers say their childrens appetites are strong, their skin is brighter looking, and they dont get sick as often.
  • Plumpynut is a medicine" that enables mothers to treat their children at home. In many cases, mothers only need to bring their children to the see the doctor once each week to be weighed. Being able to treat a child at home is important because malnutrition destroys a child's immune system; undernourished children can be susceptible to many sicknesses that are common in hospitals.
  • One six-month old girl named Hassana was recently treated with Plumpynut. When doctors first saw her, she was six months old and weighed seven pounds. (In the United States, thats what most newborn babies weigh.) Plumpynut has been helping the little girl to put on a pound a week.
  • Peanut allergies are not an issue with Plumpynut. Food allergies are much more common in developed parts of the world than in poor countries like Niger.
  • Plumpynut is produced in small factories in Niger and three other African countries. But factories can be set up anywhere in the world where there might be a need.
  • Doctors Without Borders is not the only group that is distributing Plumpynut. Project Peanut Butter has been active in Malawi, a country in southeastern Africa, since 2001. The first Plumpynut factory was built there.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson. Ask students to use what they learned about Niger in the Anticipation Guide to help them answer this question: Now that you have read the news story, what kinds of effects does Nigers geography -- its location and climate -- have on its people?

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • How many children die from hunger in Niger? (In some parts of the country, one in five children will die before reaching the age of five.)
  • What is Plumpynut? (It is a paste made from peanut butter, powdered milk, sugar, vitamins, and other things.)
  • How does Plumpynut taste? (It tastes sweet.)
  • Why are doctors excited about the new food known as Plumpynut? (Answers may vary. Doctors say it will help them in the fight against hunger. It is very easy to use because it does not need to be heated, cooled, or mixed with water.)
  • Why are doctors pleased that parents can give their kids Plumpynut at home? (Children who are undernourished are more susceptible to illnesses that they might contract if they were in a hospital setting.)
  • How much does Plumpynut cost? (about $1 a day for each child)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page.

    Next, ask this question: Plumpynut is a food, not a medicine, so what do doctors mean when they say that Plumpynut is one of the most important medicines" to come along in a long time? (They mean that Plumpynut has the same effects on hungry children as some medicines have on sick children; Plumpynut can help cure" a childs hunger and make him or her stronger.)

    Follow-Up Activities

    Geography. Share a large map of Africa with students. (If you do not have a class map, you might use a computer attached to a projector to project this map of Africa, or you might copy the map onto a transparency and use an overhead projector to share the map with students.) Ask students to locate each of the following African countries and to tell whether each country is north, east, south, or west of Niger. Chad (is east of Niger), Nigeria (south), Mali (west), Algeria (north), Ethiopia (east), Congo (south), Egypt (north or east), Angola (south), Sudan (east).

    If you teach older students, you might share this Malnutrition Hotspots world map. Have students work in small groups as they use atlases to identify and list the countries where childhood malnutrition is a big problem.
    Language arts. Share the 60 Minutes video segment that recently drew attention to Plumpynut. After viewing the segment, have students write three new facts they learned about Niger or Plumpynut from watching the video. After they have done the writing exercise, provide students with time to share what they have written. [Note: This 60 Minutes segment runs 11 minutes. We suggest that you preview the video before using it in class to be sure that the content, including images of hungry children, will not be unsettling to your students. To view the video full-screen on your computer, simply click the rectangular Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the video presentation; click the escape key to return your screen to its normal view.]

    Citizenship -- community service. If your students are motivated to raise money to support the expansion of Plumpynut delivery programs, you can learn more about how you can do that at the following links:

  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Project Peanut Butter


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
    NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NPH-H.K-4.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.K-4.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.K-4.7 Health Advocacy
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NPH-H.5-8.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.5-8.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.5-8.7 Health Advocacy
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NPH-H.9-12.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.9-12.7 Health Advocacy

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.4 Other Nations and World Affairs
    NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen

    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.4 Other Nations and World Affairs
    NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.4 Other Nations and World Affairs
    NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Economics
    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-EC.K-4.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.K-4.8 Supply and Demand
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-EC.5-8.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.5-8.8 Supply and Demand
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-EC.9-12.7 Markets and Market Prices
    NSS-EC.9-12.8 Supply and Demand

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.4 Human Systems
    NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio
    Education World®
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