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Teaching the Food System

A Project of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future


Educators may find the following research tools, lesson plans and other materials helpful in enhancing their lessons and expanding their knowledge of the food system.

From the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Food Production, Public Health and the Environment
Free, online graduate course offered through Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Open Courseware. Taught by the Center's founders, Drs. Robert Lawrence and Polly Walker. Topics include the connections among diet, the current food and food animal production systems, the environment and public health, considering factors such as economics, population and equity. Guest lecturers include experts from a variety of disciplines and experiences.

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Website
Reports, articles, fact sheets and other materials exploring the links between diet, food production, environment, human health, population and equity. Sign up to receive information about the Center's upcoming lectures, film screenings and other special events.

Agriculture & Public Health Gateway
A clearinghouse for articles, reports and organizations spanning the fields of agriculture and public health. Features a vetted browse-by-subject library, search tool and highlights of the latest research.

Livable Future Blog
Editorials on some of the latest issues in the food system, insights into the Center's work, and snapshots of news and events.

From Other Developers

The following sites may contain materials that do not reflect the opinions of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health or the Center for a Livable Future. Materials are sorted by academic level.

Crops: Where Does Food Come From? (Grades K-2)
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Lesson plan on the connections between food and its origins on farms.

From our Farms: Teaching kids about Food, Nutrition & the Farm (Grades K-6)
Rutgers University
Curriculum on food production.

Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger (Grades K-12)
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, various collaborators
Curriculum on hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. Includes a forum for exchanging information and experiences.

Oxfam Education (Grades K-12)
Oxfam International
Case studies, lesson plans and other materials. Covers climate change, fair trade, food security and other food system topics.

Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget (Grades K-3)
Sesame Workshop
A bilingual, multimedia program designed to help support families who have children between the ages of 2 and 8 and are coping with uncertain or limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

Fair Trade in the Classroom (Grades 2-5)
Global Exchange
Lesson plans centered around the theme of Fair Trade cocoa. Satisfies state teaching standards.

Cultivating Compassion (Grades 3-12)
Farm Sanctuary
Lesson plans, handouts and activities related to animal welfare.

Exploring Food: Dependance and Impacts on the Environment (Grades 4-8)
Harvard University
Curriculum unit aimed at cultivating food literacy among middle school and upper elementary students. By the end of the unit, students should be able to explain how food supply chains or food systems depend on and impact the natural environment.

The Edible Schoolyard Project (Grades 4-8)
Edible Schoolyard, Chez Panisse Foundation
Lessons, recipes and other resources for use in the garden, kitchen and classroom.

EnviroHealth Connections (Grades 4-8)
Maryland Public Television, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education
Lesson plans on artificial sweeteners, genetically modified organisms, foodborne illness and other food system topics.

Linking Food and the Environment (LiFE): An inquiry-based science and nutrition program (Grades 4-8)
Columbia University Center for Food & Environment
Teacher manuals, lesson plans and other materials. Emphasizes biology education. The Center offers professional development workshops for schools seeking to implement LiFE in classrooms and communities.

AgOdyssey (Grades 4-10)
Bowling Green State University
Curriculum on the effects of large-scale industrial agriculture.

The Food System: Building Youth Awareness through Involvement (Grades 4-12)
Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences
Guidebook for parents and educators. Emphasizes interactive learning, skill building and using the community as a classroom. Topics include food system inputs and outputs; food production, transformation, and distribution; food access and consumption; and sustaining the local food supply.

Science and Our Food Supply (Grades 4-12)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Supplementary curricula suitable for biology, life science or other science classes. Includes hands-on activities that link food science and food safety to students' everyday lives.

Nourish: Curriculum (Grades 5-8)
Center for Ecoliteracy, Worldlink, PBS
Educational resources on food and sustainability. Includes a companion DVD, viewing guide, six learning activities, action projects, student handouts, suggested resources and a glossary.

Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum (Grades 6-8)
Grassroots International, National Family Farm Coalition
Curricula centered on four contrasting perspectives: the farmer, consumer, anti-hunger group, and environmentalist. Emphasizes the value of informed activism.

Healthy Snacking at the Corner (Grades 6-8)
Department of Health, District of Columbia; Community Health Association
Lessons structured around middle school eating habits. Analyzes personal snacking and promotes healthy choices.

Journey to Planet Earth (Grades 6-8)
Sustainable Agriculture: It All Starts with the Soil provides an overview of agriculture's scientific merit, the composition of soil and its impact on food production. Land of Plenty, Land of Want covers drought, loss of topsoil, water pollution, misuse of agricultural chemicals and loss of farmland to urbanization.

The Botany of Desire (Grades 6-8)
Based on Michael Pollan's bestseller. Online lessons use four plants—apples, marijuana, tulips and potatoes—to discuss the themes of sweetness, intoxication, beauty and control that influence agriculture and consumption.

Water Planet Challenge (Grades 6-12)
EarthEcho International
Action guides, readings and other resources exploring the links between aquatic ecosystems, waterways, public health and the food system. Features materials adapted from Teaching the Food System.

Disappearing Fish (Grades 6-12)
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Podcast, written transcript, discussion questions and links to lessons on overfishing.

Discovering the Food System: An Experiential Learning Program for Young & Inquiring Minds (Grades 6-12)
Cornell University
Experiential learning activities offering a guided discovery of the food system. Prompts in-depth investigation of local community food systems.

Hunger 101 (Grades 6-12)
Atlanta Community Food Bank
Lesson plans on the relationship between hunger and poverty. Emphasizes community building and explores possible remedies to American hunger.

Dead Zones: Why are the Waters Dying? (Grades 9-12)
John Ausema, biology teacher, Wilmington Christian School, Wilmington, DE
Lesson exploring the effects of nutrient pollution on marine ecosystems. Students will brainstorm the effects of pollution on marine life, calculate the total maximum daily load for nutrient pollution that is in their area and conduct local water quality studies.

EcoHealth 101 (Grades 9-12)
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health; University of Wisconsin, Madison
Classroom research projects on climate change, biodiversity, genetically modified foods, and other topics intersecting ecosystems and health.

Facing the Future: Sustainable Curriculum (Grades 9-12)
Facing the Future
Lessons covering the connections between sustainable food production, hunger, poverty, environmental change and other global issues.

Farmers & Pesticides (Grades 9-12)
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Podcast, written transcript and discussion questions on pesticides and human health.

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Grades 9-12)
Iowa State University
Curricula, classroom activities, reports, fact sheets and tools relating to Iowa agriculture. Used in classrooms to help teach sustainable agriculture.

Toward a Sustainable Agriculture: A Curriculum for High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), University of Wisconsin, Madison
Lesson plans and case studies on sustainable agriculture. Topics include the social, environmental and economic effects of agriculture.

The Value of a Garden (Grades 9-12)
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Lesson plans on the value of botanical, community, and other gardens in preserving biodiversity and in contributing to 

Food: What Might be for Dinner? (Grades 9-12, college, adult)
Interactivity Foundation
Discussion guide covering food safety, hunger and other food system concerns. Emphasizes policy approaches.

Biotechnology: An Agricultural Dilemma (Grades 10-12)
Brian R. Shmaefsky, Ph.D., Professor of Biology & Biotechnology, Kingwood College, TX
Lesson plan examining the potential benefits and risks of genetically modified crops.

The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food (College, graduate)
Yale University
Online course on the study of eating as it affects health. Topics include taste preferences, the regulation of hunger and satiety, eating as social ritual, sustainable and organic agriculture, genetically modified foods, nutrition policy and the influence of food and agriculture industries.

Food, Farming & Community: Curricula for Adult Learners (Adult)
Michigan State University Museum
Curriculum and case studies. Topics include the history of agriculture, the industrialization of agriculture, sustainable agriculture, food policy and consumption trends.

Feast or Famine: Food Security Board Game (All ages)
Atlanta Community Food Bank
Explores hunger as a local, national and global problem.