Food Insecurity

3, 4, 5

Students define food insecurity and scarcity of resources. They use problem-solving to share a scarce resource. Students work in groups to discuss how to be good caretakers of scare resources, such as food, water, and fuel. Then they discuss how these choices affect global issues.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

The learner will

  • define scarcity, resources, food insecurity, opportunity cost and stewardship.
  • identify feasible behaviors that will help sustain scarce resources.
  • two apples and something to cut them with
  • chart paper and markers (enough for each group of four students to have a piece of paper and a marker)
  • food insecurity: the risk or fear of not having consistent access to food that meets people's dietary needs and food preferences; not being sure one will have enough food or the right food to feel full, grow, and be healthy
  • resources: available supply or support that can be drawn on when needed or wanted
  • scarcity: the lack of a resource, such as money, food, education, or housing.
  • opportunity cost: the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made about using scarce resources.
  • stewardship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care  

Ask students to draw a sketch of a pyramid on an index card. Inside the pyramid, have them write a food or health-related choice they plan to make today that is good for them and the world. This may include eating foods that are grown sustainably, drinking filtered water, or modeling good choices for their friends.


Feeding America--Scroll over the different states to see their hunger statistics and compare: basic skills while earning rice for hungry people worldwide:
Heifer International--A nonprofit that provides livestock and training to families in need.
World Health Organization Hunger Factsheet--Uplifting and concerning facts about the current state of international hunger.


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Display the word security on a large piece of paper and ask the students to define it. Through discussion, help them understand that it is a synonym of safety. Now write the prefix in in front of the word security to create the word insecurity and ask how they think this changes the meaning (answer: lack of safety). Then add the word food in front of insecurity. Tell the young people that many people in the world suffer from food insecurity, which means “the risk or fear of not having consistent access to food that meets people's dietary needs and food preferences.”

  2. Tell the young people that those things that are available to supply or support our needs or wants are called resources. Discuss how it might feel to be unsure about having enough food and other resources, such as water, clothing, a home for shelter, and schools.

  3. Show the apples that you brought to class and tell the students that you have brought them a healthy treat. Ask them to name the food group that apples belong to. Pretend to be unsure of how you will distribute the apples because you have only two and there are more than two young people in the group.

  4. Say: “This is a scarce resource - something that can be drawn on when needed or wanted. How can I use this resource wisely?” Suggest that you could give both apples to one child, but you would be upset because you would have nothing to give the other students. Ask for suggestions about how you could distribute the treat. When the group has come to consensus about the best choice for distributing the treat, distribute the apples.

  5. While the young people are eating their treat, introduce the word scarcity (the lack of a resource, such as money, food, education, and housing) and opportunity cost (the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made about using scarce resources - the choice to share the apple limits everyone's portion). Ask students to name some resources they or their families need and use every day – water, air, fuel, food, electricity. Ask: Do we have a responsibility to use resources such as food, water, and fuel carefully? Why or why not? (Scarce resources must supply needs globally. If one person/group/country consumes more resources than needed, others will experience scarcity, harming the common good.)

  6. Move students into groups. Give each group a large piece of paper and a marker. Assign each group a resource – water, food, air, electricity, or fuel. Tell them to list ways that they can carefully use or protect their limited resource (e.g., not throwing away food, not running the water too long, recycling, riding bikes instead of getting a car ride). Give them five minutes to brainstorm.

  7. While students are working in groups, circulate and help them focus on personal and family choices.

  8. Have each group display their list for the class to see. Have them report their lists and compare to the other lists in the class.

  9. Discuss how these personal choices can make a difference globally (examples: conserving resources is good for the sustainability of the environment and opens the possibility of more fair distribution, reducing consumption keeps the resource clean and available for more people, reducing waste means less pollution). Write the word stewardship on a display area and tell students that if they choose to act on the suggestions to carefully use and protect resources they will be good stewards of global resources, practicing stewardship, which is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.13 Describe limited resources and scarcity.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Define stewardship and give examples.