Discovering Childhood Hunger

3, 4, 5

This lesson introduces children to the reality of childhood hunger in their region. Students learn the difference between companies that are for profit and nonprofit and the types of work they do. Students also identify wants and needs.

PrintOne 45-60 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • differentiate between a for-profit and nonprofit company.
  • identify and classify items as wants or needs.
  • define philanthropy and brainstorm ways they can practice philanthropy to help kids who are hungry.
  • read-aloud copy of The Girl in the Yellow Dress (published by Kids' Food Basket - contact them at to purchase)
  • student copies of Handout One:Profit/Nonprofit
  • student copies of Handout Two:Wants and Needs
  • chart paper/whiteboard
  • markers
  • sentence strips
Teacher Preparation 
  • Contact Kids' Food Basket ( to order a copy of The Girl in the Yellow Dress email: [email protected] or phone: 616.235.4532
  • Prepare sentence strips with kid-friendly definitions of for-profit and nonprofit organizations. (For-profit: a business whose income benefits the owners; Nonprofit: a business set up to meet a need of the common good)
  • In advance, look up statistics in your area of food insecurity. Find some age-appropriate statistics to share with students to give them an idea of the need in their area. 
  • for-profit organization: a organization whose income is for the benefit of its owners, stockholders, or directors
  • nonprofit organization: an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors, or any other persons with an interest in the company
  • philanthropy: giving or sharing time, talent, or treasure, or taking action for the common good
Home Connection 

Encourage the students to talk at home about hunger in their community. They may ask their families what they could do as a family to address this need.


The Girl in the Yellow Dress (published 2013 by Kids' Food Basket Contact them at [email protected] to obtain a copy. 

Feeding America  


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Read aloud the book The Girl in the Yellow Dress to the class. (This is a true story of the origin of a nonprofit that feeds kids in Grand Rapids, Michigan.) After reading, engage the class in a discussion of the book. What was the "big deal" with the girl in the yellow dress? Why is the yellow dress significant? What was the little girl's biggest problem? Who decided to help her? Why did they decide to help? How did that one little girl's situation grow into the community effort that it has?

  2. On a piece of chart paper (or the whiteboard), make a T-chart with "Wants" on one side and "Needs" on the other. Ask the students to brainstorm things that would fall into each category. Take any answer that they give, only questioning if you aren't sure which category they want their answer to go in.

  3. After the T-chart is completed, review each column and ask the students if they think anything might need to be moved. Allow time for the students to share their reasoning.

  4. Ask the students to think back to the girl in The Girl with the Yellow Dress. What were her needs? Did she have everything she needed? Why or why not? What do you think her wants were? Do you think they are the same as the wants that we have in our class? Why or why not? (Alternately you could choose to circle, in another color, the items the students identify as being a need of the girl that match what is on the chart created in class.)

  5. Distribute the Wants and Needshandout to each student. Having students work in pairs, provide time for them to complete the worksheet.

  6. Once students have had time to complete the worksheet, go over their answers. Ask the students to clarify why some things might really be wants even though they could count as a need (ex. we need clothes but do we need jeans that cost $50 or a pair of Nikes?).

  7. Display a new T-chart with the words For-profit organizationand Nonprofit organizationwritten on each side. Ask the students to brainstorm words related to the concepts and come up with a definition for each.

  8. Allow students to share their ideas, documenting them on the chart as previously. Ask students for evidence/support of their answers to help enhance the discussion.

  9. After the students have come up with several words and a definition, show the student-friendly definitions on sentence strips that you have filled out before the lesson. Compare the brainstorming the students did with the definitions. Discuss and adjust the definition.

  10. Distribute the Profit/Nonprofit handout to each student. Allow students to work in pairs as they classify the different companies. (The partnership is important because you, as the teacher, want to be able to hear the students providing evidence, from the previous discussion, as to why a company such as Kids' Food Basket would be a nonprofit over a company like McDonald's that is run for profit to its owners and stockholders.)

  11. As a wrap-up activity, have the students brainstorm what a company's goals might be if they are a nonprofit. Ultimately you want the students to understand that a nonprofit company's goal is generally do help their community solve some sort of problem/address a need.

  12. Introduce the concept of philanthropy. Tell the students that philanthropy is the act of giving time, talent, or treasure or taking action for the common good. Ask the students if they think nonprofit companies seem to be performing philanthropy. Remind the students of the principal in the story The Girl in the Yellow Dress. Ask in what ways is Principal P a philanthropist. Ask the students if they (as young people) could practice philanthropy, helping kids in their own community get the food they need. Share some local hunger/food insecurity statistics (see Teacher Preparation above).

  13. Start a brainstorming list of things they can do to address the needs of hungry kids in their community. They can add to this list over the next several days.


Teacher Observation: During the students' independent work, listen in on the student discussions/reasonings for the choices they are making on the worksheets. This will help you determine if they are grasping the concepts of a want vs a need and the differences between profit and non-profit companies. Student Work: The worksheets aren't intended to be "graded" but rather to serve as a guide for the teacher to determine if the students have grasped the concepts taught in the lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

Read about the service-learning project called Fourth Graders Feeding San Diego by San Diego Global Vision Academy students who were taught using this Discovering Childhood Hunger lesson to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Drew is a 4th grade Administrative Lead Educator who said, “One of my core values is that service-learning is essential for all students to participate in, as it integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities.”

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Define the terms "profit" and "not-for-profit."
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Explain the difference between wants and needs.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.