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6 Activities to Teach Food Justice

By Jeannie Russell

Teaching about Food Justice means challenging students to explore and think critically about all aspects of our food systems – which connect us through the food we eat to countless other people, animals, and to many of the natural habitats that make up our world – and asking them to consider ways to make it more just, compassionate, and sustainable for us all.

1. Problems for Pollinators

Food Justice means protecting our habitats and the pollinators critical to our food webs. Watch this video about the key role pollinators play in sustaining life on our planet. Students can cut out pre-printed images of butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and bats or draw their own on hard stock paper. On the back of the picture, have students write about why we need this pollinator, and share one idea for how we can help to protect them. You can then string the pictures and messages up to hang around the classroom.

2. Thinking About Farm Animals

Food Justice means learning more about our farm animals so we can better understand how to treat them humanely and with respect for their needs. Watch this video of two piglets playing at a farm sanctuary. Make a T-Chart and label the headers “Pigs’”/”Dogs.” Have students list all of the different ways that they observed the piglets playing in the video, then move to the side labeled “Dogs” and list ways that they have seen dogs playing. Ask: Why do you think that animals love to play? Why do you love to play? What do all animals and people need in order to play and enjoy their lives with friends and family?

3. Food Inequality and Urban Gardens

Watch this video about Ron Finley, a Food Justice hero who has worked to transform his inner-city neighborhood from a food desert to a food forest. Students can work in small groups to imagine and create a drawing or a 3-D model of a community garden that could be planted in a space in their neighborhood. What foods do they want to grow? What delicious recipes can they share using these healthy, whole foods? Here is some information about planting zones along with a “Gardening 101” tutorial to help them get started.

4. Justice for Farmworkers

Watch this video about the workers who harvest our food. Food Justice means treating these essential workers with respect and making sure that they have a living wage. Students can make charts of some foods they eat in a typical day, research where those foods were likely grown, and write a paragraph describing a typical day for the people who might be involved in the journey of their food from farm to table.

5. Research the Environmental Impact of Your Food Choices

The industrialized process of bringing food to your plate takes a major toll on the environment. Communities surrounding processing plants and factory farms are where the impact on the soil, air, and water is felt the most. To learn more about the impact of your food choices, use the FootPrint calculator. This easy-to-use tool helps you understand how your food choices affect the environment and provides ideas for how you can make simple changes that will benefit the environment.

6. Mutual Aid Supports Communities

A global pandemic has dramatically increased the number of people who are struggling to feed their families. Many communities around the country have come together to offer mutual aid support to feed their most vulnerable neighbors. Food Justice means that we reach out to ensure that all of our neighbors are cared for during difficult times. Watch this video about a mutual aid food kitchen in the Bronx, NY. Students can use internet searches to create a map of food kitchens, food pantries, and mutual aid groups in their community. Consider organizing a food drive or other volunteer effort to support a local group that is working to feed our neighbors.

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