Poverty and Hunger

Students learn how poverty and hunger are related.

Print2 hours

Students will:

  • define key terms related to poverty and hunger.
  • create a monthly budget for a family of four.
  • discuss poverty, wages, and hunger.

"Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average." United States Department of Agriculture. Web.


"Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, July 2014." United States Department of Agriculture, July 2014. Web.  https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood/reports 

  1. Introduce students to vocabulary and key terms: Minimum wage, federal poverty level, USDA food guide, recommended daily allowances (RDA), dietary reference intake, household income, poverty line, standard of living, and working poor.

  2. Give students a copy of the "Official USDA Food Plans" (printout or Internet access) and ask them to review it.

  3. Ask students to create a monthly food budget for a family of four, using the USDA cost estimates on the webpage they reviewed. 

    After they create their budgets, have them talk about the other costs of raising a family. Discuss why the phrase "heat or eat" is used in homes living in poverty. 

    Note: the USDA has a calculator to help families calculate the cost of raising a child found on this page http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/

  4. Follow up with the discussion questions:

    • How could a working class family have one or more full time workers and still be poor?
    • What programs or services could help make life more manageable for your family?
    • What roadblocks exist that may hinder eligibility for and access to these programs?
    • How does poverty contribute to nutritional deprivation?
    • Do you think minimum wage should be adjusted or inflated? Why or why not?
  5. Ask students to write a reflection in their personal journals.


Students answer discussion and reflection questions.


In a brief written reflection, address the questions:

  • Who is hungry in America?
  • What circumstances cause food insecurity?
  • What circumstances cause hunger?