Why Are People Hungry?

6, 7, 8

In response to an activity involving unfair distribution of food, students explore what can be done to address the issue of child hunger in the United States. They conduct an investigation of hunger in the local community. Students join with a nonprofit organization and take action to address the issue of child hunger using the theme of "What Will You Bring to the Table?"

Focus Question: What is our responsibility to take action for the sake of children who are hungry?

PrintFour 50-Minute Sessions, plus time to carry out a service project

The learner will:

  • investigatefacts about local and national food insecurity.
  • discuss and propose solutions to the issue of child hunger in the community.
  • identify actions individuals have taken for the common good that have affected history.
  • identify time, talent, and treasure students can bring to the table.
  • prepare for the service experiencewith planning and goal setting.
  • take actionthrough designing and carrying out a service to address the issue of child hunger.
  • use communication skills to advocate, promote, and demonstrate.
  • small paper bags, eachwith a food item in it (one per student)
  • napkin or paper towel for each student
  • student copies of the researchhandouts (handouts one and two)
  • teacher copy of the assessment worksheet (handout three)
Teacher Preparation 

Prior to the start of this class period, prepare a brown paper bag for each student. Place in each bag some kind of finger-food item. Place more items in some bags than others. Examples of items could include potato chips, popcorn, a candy bar, a slice of bread or two, fruit snacks, granola bar, grapes, lettuce, cereal, potato, orange. Fold or one-staple the bag shut.

  • 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
  • hunger: an uneasy or unpleasant feeling caused by an empty stomach
  • malnutrition: a state of poor nutrition caused by either insufficient food supply or by an unbalanced diet
  • philanthropy: giving or sharing time, talent, and treasure and taking action for the common good
  • starving: not having enough food to grow or be healthy

Read: One Saturday a month, the Spud Patrol swings into action in the cities of Vancouver, Canada; Asheville, North Carolina; and San Diego, California. The Spud Patrol is a group of volunteers that comes together to bake potatoes for people who are hungry in their community. They bake all the “spuds” that their ovens will hold and take them to the park. They also bring all the things that go with them like sour cream, butter, and chives. The homeless people in the area are invited to the park to come to have a hot baked potato. Some Saturdays they give away as many as 2,500 baked potatoes in Vancouver. This began because one person in Vancouver decided to do something to help the homeless in his community and didn’t want to just give them money.

Discuss: How do you think the people serving the spuds felt when the people received the potatoes? Do you think seeing the faces of people who get the hot potatoes makes this activity more meaningful to volunteers? How is our table project fun for all participants?

  • Share Our Strength -- Nonprofit organization that mobilizes individuals and businesses to fight hunger www.strength.org/

Food Insecurity Websites:

News Sources (Use search function to find current articles about "hunger.")


  1. Teacher Note: How do you address the issue of hunger with young people if some of your students have personal experience with hunger?

    First of all, be sensitive as you discuss the issue, being careful not to speak negatively about circumstances or as if the problem is distant. Students who have personal experience with hunger may have good ideas about what helps, and may be the best advocates for getting help for others. There are many projects students can do that do not require contributions of money or food items. Students may share ideas, skills, hard work, artistic talent, or an activist voice. Raising awareness of and visibility to the issue are important elements of service that do not require "treasure." By spending time on studying hunger issues in the community and guiding students to take action, you bring a loving heart to the table.

    Anticipatory Set

    Read this quote by Mother Teresaor post it on the board for the students to read:“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

    Ask the students to point out parts of the quote that seem true and to discuss what the quote means to them. Tell them what Mother Teresa did in her life to take responsibility for the common good. (During her lifetime, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, where she attended to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying.) Ask (and discuss), "If Mother Teresa were to visit our classroom today, what do you think she would say to us about individual responsibility forchildren locallywho are hungry?" Talk about what each person can "bring to the table" (physically, emotionally, metaphorically)to address the needs of children who are hungry in the local community.

    Say, "We often think that hungry people are far away in Africa or Asia, but one in five children in the United States are facing hunger today. How can that happen in a country as wealthy in resources as the U.S.?"

    Teacher Note: Prior to the start of this class period prepare a brown paper bag for each student. Place in each bag some kind of finger-food item. Place more items in some bags than others. Examples of items could include potato chips, popcorn, a candy bar, a slice of bread or two, fruit snacks, granola bar, grapes, lettuce, cereal, potato, orange. Fold or staple the bag shut.

  2. Give each student a napkin and model what they are to do with it (spread it out in front of them)withoutusing verbal cues. Once the studentshave properly placed their paper towel or napkin, distribute one of the preparedbrown paper bags to each student. Onceeveryone has received a bag,tell them toopen their bagsand place its contents in front of them on the paper towel or napkin. Allow a couple of minutes for discussion.

  3. Lead a class discussionand askthe learners to share some of the comments made concerning the contents of their bag. Capture on the display board as many of these comments as time permits (quantity or quality concerns, likes or dislikes, satisfaction or dissatisfaction, happiness or unhappiness, fairness or unfairness).

  4. Encourage those who expressed concern about their lack of quantity or quality, dislikes, satisfaction, orfairness to share some of the things that could be done tolower their concern.

  5. Ask those who expressed little or no concern to share whar they could do toreduce the concerns of those who "complained."

  6. Discuss whether the ideas they just discussed can translate to helpingchildren who are hungry locally and nationally. Ask the students whether they, as young people, have the ability and responsibility to help. Write the word philanthropy on the display board and have the learners share any prior knowledge they might have concerning this word. (Definition: giving time, talent and treasure for the sake of another - or for the common good.) Lead the studentsto an understanding that they can do kind things for each other as well as take action to help people who are hungry. Both of those actions are acts of philanthropy.

  7. Day Two


    Tell the students that one in five children in the U.S. are food insecure, which means they are not sure whether they will have enough to eat each day. This is not because there isn't enough food to go around; Americans throw away 40 percent of their food. Much food is wasted, and access to the world's food supply is not equal or fair, so some people have too much and others do not have enough.

  8. Challenge the students to work in small groups to investigate the issue of hunger locally and globally and then bring their findings back to the group. Assign groups local communities or statesto research to find out what percentage of the population is hungry and why. Assign at least one group the topic of finding out statistics about the local community and/or state. Give the groups the following questions to guide their investigation:

    1. What is the region you are investigating?
    2. What are some statistics related to child hunger?
    3. What issues do people in this region facethat createfood scarcity or hunger?
    4. What can be done by a group of people to address the issue?
    5. What nonprofit organizations are already focusing efforts in thearea?
  9. After groups have investigated, have themintegrate their data into a table with all the regions represented. Use the questions above as headings for the table. Handout One may be used as a graphic organizer.

  10. Discuss the collected data and have the students make inferences about the causes of hunger.Brainstormideas of things they can do to raise awareness and advocate for helpingchildren who are hungry.

  11. Day Three


  12. Tell the students that they are going to make a very special table and take action to help bring food to hungry children. Describe the project "What Will You Bring to the Table?" and the possible ways to carry it out. For example, they may paint a new or old table to look like a work of art and display it in the community along with information on how the community can bring something to the table for children who are hungry. Or, your class may set up a table in the gym and invite families to donate canned goods or money for the local food bank. The table may be a meeting place for groups to talk about the issue of child hunger and propose solutions. The students can plan how to decorate the table and make posters telling about the food drive. Or students may make models of tables with pre-printed facts about childhood hunger in the United States and ideas for people to take action. Be creative to address a local or nationalhunger need.

  13. Teacher Note: Using the Food Bank Locator, locate food banks in the community that the class might consider partnering with to help with the food drive project. This site also tells about the hunger statistics in your community.https://map.feedingamerica.org

  14. Guide the students as they plan their project and set goals.Preparation for their serviceshould include contacting partners, gathering supplies, determining what volunteers will do, and communicatingtheir planandinvitingothers to get involved in the action (marketing and social media).They mayuse thehandout "Research Local Needs and Resources" to guide their planning.

  15. Day Four and Beyond

  16. Take action and carry out the table project over several days and weeks. Engage the students in critical thinking and problem solving as questions and challenges arise. Help them recognize that they are making a difference.

  17. As students work on the hunger project centered around a table, they can document what they are doing, keep graphs and records of food collected and donated, if you are collecting treasure.

  18. Reflection:

  19. Reflect with students daily on how it is going, what needs to be done, and how they feel about their work. Work on this project while you continue to learn about child hunger and reflect on progress and what the students are doing. Have students sit around a table to discuss what time, talent, and treasure people can "bring to the table" to reduce child hunger. Discuss the class results. Sample questions: How do you feel about what you are bringing to the table? Why is a table a good place to discuss hunger and bring the community together? Is our project important or making a difference to children who are hungry?

  20. Demonstration:

  21. After the project is complete, involve the students in reporting on the project in a formal demonstration that may includedelivering supplies, thanking people who helped, and creatively demonstrating the success of the project. Be sure to tell the media and school community about the success. The demonstration may include a display of numbers and student work on the table. Invite families to view the demonstration, which may be a presentation or display.


Use handout three "Assessment for Service-Learning" as an assessment tool to guide your evaluation of the service-learning experience.

Cross Curriculum 

The students design and carry out a service project called, "What Will You Bring to the Table?" The project involves taking action to address the issue of childhood hunger in their community through a food drive or awareness campaign. Part of the project involves decorating or building a table to raise awareness and encourage others to helpchildren who are hungry. They may use a real table, a mural of a table, or a tablecloth set up in the lunchroom. They may be creative about their table and where it is displayed. The table may be a collection site for donations or a display that teaches others about the needs ofchildren who are hungry. The table can also be a gathering place for conversations about hunger and what they can do to address the issue.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.11 Identify and give an example of organizations in the civil society sector that work to protect minority voices around the world.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Give an example of individual philanthropic action that influenced the nation's history.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Develop a service plan.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.