Food Security and Food Justice Toolkit

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Food Security
Scientific Investigation
Service Project
Service Learning
Social Justice
Lessons and Service-Learning Project Ideas Related to Food Security and Food Justice: This toolkit will guide instruction and provides ideas for service project ideas and community resources. This is designed to spark ideas for learning and actions related to understanding and impacting food justice in an urban community. Note: This toolkit is focused on Detroit/Wayne County but may be easily adapted for other areas.

Food Security and Food Justice Service-Learning Projects

The best service-learning projects are related to classroom instruction, involve student voice and choice, address a researched need, and work with local resources. This toolkit is focused on Detroit/Wayne County but may be adapted for other areas. 


  • Food Security/Insecurity Food security is a state when people have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. There can be food insecurity with and without hunger. Food security is often related to food justice. 
  • Food Justice  Food justice is fair access to fresh/healthy/affordable food and fair wages and treatment of those who harvest, prepare and serve it.  

See the HANDOUT below for more teacher-focused background information.

Four Types of Service Projects:

Student action may be direct, indirect, advocacy, research, or a combination of these.


Direct Service

Indirect Service



Create or work at a food garden

Conduct a school-wide collection for the local food bank

Host an event to examine wage and job conditions for food workers

Create and share a local healthy food guide

Food-Related Project Ideas

Create a Local Resource Guide

Create a local resource guide to distribute to school community and nearby neighborsThis Community Mapping Activity could identify the closest healthy food sources, including community gardens. It could also include contact information for organizations that can help those who are food insecure

Start a School Garden

Start a school garden; share products with school community and/or local food banks. Organizations in Community Resources below can be of help.

Volunteer at a Local Garden

Perform service hours/volunteer at a local garden, food bank or other organization that assists with food security. Some of these organizations are identified in Community Resources below.

Investigate Local Food Justice

Research farmworker and local restaurant industry practices and use in-school and social media to educate others about those conditions; invite food workers to speak to your community. See Community Resources regarding Worker Justice 

The Resource Links Below Help Guide You To:

  1. Learning to Give lesson plans teach students about philanthropy concepts and skills.
  2. Learning to Give lesson plans teach about food security/justice, nutrition, and gardening.
  3. Information about and free resources from community and other organizations. 

1. Learning to Give Philanthropy and Skill-Building

Four Short Videos about Philanthropy

  1. What is Philanthropy? Defines, describes, and provides examples of philanthropy and service-learning
  2. Connecting Skills and Interests to Community Needs: Defining the interests and skills that can be used in meeting community needs
  3. Understanding Advocacy and Action: Examples of the power of advocacy and action.
  4. Stages of Service-Learning: Steps in the process are outlined here 

Lessons and Activities

Teach Advocacy Skills

Grade Level

Lesson Title




History in Action

Film Activity Guide

Includes 4-minute video of various movements

Grades 9-12

Advocacy and Activism Introduction

Lesson Plan

Learn from Martin Luther King, Jr. About the tools of advocacy

Middle/High School

Characteristics of Good Advocates


Describes 8 characteristics


Determining Advocacy Style

Conduct a Survey

No right/wrong answers; helps to identify personal advocacy style; pair with “Characteristics” handout


Spoken Word Poetry for Justice

Spoken Word

Mini-course for teachers: examples, tips to teach Spoken Word poetry

Middle School

Telling Our Stories of Giving

Lesson Plan

Unit of 3 lessons; students learn about and practice Newspaper writing; personal narrative and persuasive writing

Grades 9-12

Writers as Activists

Four Lesson Plans

Look at writers Rachel Carson, Mary Terell, and Alice Walker; 4th lesson is a writing exercise for writing to newspaper or lawmaker.  If time-limited, recommend lessons 3 and 4


And bring community awareness to your students' work by using this step-by-step media and timeline guide.

2. Learning to Give Food and Garden Resources

3. Community and Other Free Resources

Videos about Food Justice

Social Justice Learning Institute: Los Angeles students build a community garden [4:30] Video LINK

Food What?!: Youth Empowerment and Food Justice Program [5:00] Video LINK

2017 Detroit Food Security Metrics Report 

Urban Farms

There are many in Detroit!  Here are a few:

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and D-Town Farm

DBCFSN’s vision is to advance movement towards food sovereignty while advocating for justice in the food system that ensures access to healthy foods with dignity and respect for all of Detroit’s residents. It operates the seven-acre D-Town Farm on the City’s west side, provides youth education and is currently developing the Detroit People’s Food Co-op.  Speaker and volunteer opportunities are available.  Contact [email protected]  (313) 345-3663

Earthworks Urban Farm

Earthworks, part of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, operates on Detroit’s east side.  Visits to the farm and volunteer opportunities are available. Contact Earthworks Outreach Specialist at [email protected] (313) 579-2100 ext 204

Gardening Expertise and Help

Detroit Public Schools Community District

DPSCD has a Detroit School Garden Collaborative that creates school gardens throughout the city.  The program is designed to be a “real-life laboratory” to teach about healthy eating and growing food while increasing student access to fresh produce. The Drew Horticulture Program and The Gardens at Drew are involved in the local Farm-to- Table movement, supplying fresh produce to local Detroit restaurants, food pantries. Garden curriculum lessons are provided that are linked to State of Michigan Science benchmarks. The program is run by the DPSCD Office of Nutrition. (313) 320-9304

Keep Growing Detroit  

KGD's mission is to promote a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables Detroiters consume are grown by residents within the city's limits. KGD provides education, equipment and grows transplants for gardens in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. KGD also operates a small educational farm. Service learning events and tours are available for students ages 12+. Contact [email protected] (313) 757-2635. 

Michigan State University Extension 

MSU Extension offers Community Food Systems educational programs.  For teachers and schools, they include workshops about starting a school garden, site visits and evaluations to support such gardens and teacher professional development.  To schedule a workshop or for more information, contact Kristine Hahn, Community Food Systems Educator at (248) 802-4590 or [email protected]

Food Banks

Gleaners Community Food Bank is a vital link between available food and those who need it most. It operates centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, and Monroe counties and provides food to 499 partner agencies, including many local schools. Its “Kids Helping Kids” service-learning program for youth includes a food bank tour, nutrition education, and a volunteer project that will help their hungry peers such as packing food bags for distribution at schools, gardening through their Food Zoo, and creating clay bowls through the Empty Bowls program. For more information, go to To request a speaker from the Gleaners Speakers Bureau, contact Julie Ptasznik at [email protected].

Find a local pantry @ [Note: this site relies on self-reporting and info should be verified]

Worker Justice-Farmworkers

This 24-minute video about the Campaign for “Justice, Dignity and Sustainability” Describes deplorable living conditions of farmworkers [some liken to “slavery”] and the successful campaign to raise wages of tomato workers by targeting fast food and upscale networks; young people are prominently featured. 

Here is further information about working conditions for farmworkers and how immigration and labor issues impact these workers. Groups like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice are farmworker advocates.

Youth Food Leadership/Entrepreneurship

Detroit Food Academy engages students while they are still in school, emphasizes youth leadership, and surrounds them with supportive networks to ensure lasting success. Its place-based focus on social entrepreneurship contextualizes learning with real-world relevance. After-school Leadership Program: A school-year leadership development program for young Detroiters that culminates in the design and launch of students’ own triple-bottom-line (people, planet, profit) food business. Contact Program Director, Yolanda Scarborough at [email protected].

Free, Ready-to-go Gardening and Food Resources

Food Span is a free, downloadable high school curriculum [3 units/17 total lessons] from Johns Hopkins university that highlights critical issues in the food system (farm to table) and empowers students via a “food citizen” action project. It is aligned to national education standards in science, social studies, health, and family and consumer sciences. The lesson plans include learning objectives, essential questions, time required, handouts, slides, supplies required, and a glossary

Big Green offers links to guides, videos and classroom activities on managing a garden including planting, watering, harvesting and other topics.

The Teen Food Literacy Curriculum provides detailed discussion guides and instructions for facilitating a 13-session course to teach leadership skills to teens through the lens of food literacy and advocacy. 

Gardening for People with Disabilities

The Chicago Botanic Garden has download-able manual