To look for evidence of global interdependence in the foods that we eat.
In this interdisciplinary lesson, students explore the concept of global interdependence by investigating the origins of the foods they eat. Students will recognize the fact that many of the foods they eat, and the ingredients that go into making them, are produced in other countries. They will speculate about why certain foods are produced in different regions of the world, and what might happen if the production and/or distribution of these goods was to stop.
See the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) website, and the FAO Statistical Databases for background information on global food production, consumption, and trade.
Have students go to National Geographic's Xpeditions website to read Lizzie’s Morning. This story explores all of the cultures that a young girl comes into contact with from the time she wakes up to the time she gets on the schoolbus.
- What products or goods does Lizzie use that come from other countries?
- Does your family use any of these products?
- If these goods are produced in other countries, how might they get to your home?
After students have discussed these questions, tell them the next day they will do an activity that will be based on what they had for breakfast. Tell students to make a point of noting everything they eat for breakfast the next morning and to jot down the items on a list, if that helps them remember.
Ask students to think back on their morning. What did they eat for breakfast? Have each student create a list of the foods that they ate, if they haven't already done so.
- Do you know where these foods come from?
- Do they contain any ingredients that might have come from another country?
Allow students to share examples of foods that they think might have been produced in another country.
Depending on your students, it might be appropriate to extend this lesson with vocabulary such as consumers, producers, needs, and wants. For a detailed lesson plan incorporating these ideas, go to EconEdLink’s Hey, Mom! What’s for Breakfast?
Have students visit Breakfast Around the World, part of the EconEdLink’s lesson plan. Here, students can see what children around the world are eating for breakfast.
- Which countries’ breakfasts were similar to yours? Which were different?
- Can you think of any reasons why people in different parts of the world eat different foods?
- Are any of the foods described available in this country? How might we have gotten them?
Visit the American Museum of Natural History’s biodiversity exhibit, entitled “It takes All Kinds.” Have students read Gobal Grocery. Here, students can click on any of the products from an ordinary trip to the grocery store to find out where the main ingredient in that product originated. Record information about the different foods produced in each country on a large classroom map, or distribute individual student maps, available on the Xpeditions website.
Say to students, "Growing and producing food is an important business around the world. Let's look at and compare industries and agriculture for different countries."
Divide students into groups and either assign each team a country or allow them to choose one themselves. Have students go online and research foods that are eaten and produced in that country and the climate of the country. Faraway Places at Your Fingertips from Time for Kids is a good place to start their research, but feel free to use your own favorite research sites.
Introduce the term global interdependence to describe the idea that we must rely on other countries to provide some of the goods that we need, just as they must rely on us.
Ask groups to discuss and record their answers to the following:
- What are some of the main foods eaten in this country?
- What are some of the foods produced in this country?
- What is the climate of this country?
- How might the climate of the country determine the foods that are produced there?
- Would we be able to produce the same foods in this country? Why or why not?
- Can you think of a product that would be difficult to produce in that country? Why? How might that country get that product?
Have each group create a series of pictures showing the foods produced in their country. Have students label the picture with the name of the country, the name of the food, and the amount of the product or food that is produced. Allow groups to share their findings and hang their pictures in a designated section of the classroom.
To summarize the ideas in this lesson and check for student understanding, have students create a fictional situation in which one of the countries decides to stop producing a certain food, or their crops are wiped out, resulting in a scarcity of that product. They should use the posters created by the class to select a product and country.
Students should consider questions such as:
- How would other countries be affected by this?
- What would happen to the price?
- How does this show why countries around the world depend on each other for products?
If students have selected a product that is supplied primarily by a single country, they should recognize that the price will increase and there will be shortages. If students have selected a product that is produced or grown by many countries, their answer should consider whether scarcity of that product would have a major or only a minor global impact.
Go to Coffee on the National Geographic website. Here, students can read legends describing how the production of coffee spread to different regions of the world. Students can trace the spread of coffee by locating each country on the world map. Students can also locate today’s major coffee producers on the map.
Students could consider questions such as:
- What, if anything, do these coffee-producing regions have in common?
- What kind of climate is needed to produce coffee? Could it be produced in the United States? Why or why not?
- How might we obtain coffee?
- What would happen if Brazil or another top producer suddenly stopped exporting coffee?
- Can you think of goods produced in your country that would have a major impact on other countries if taken off the market?