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close this bookExploding the Hunger Myths - High School Curriculum (FF, 1987, 173 p.)
close this folderLesson 5: Rich world, poor world?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentActivity 1: Life on the farm
View the documentActivity 2: Selling food
View the documentActivity 3: Who suffers, who benefits?

Activity 3: Who suffers, who benefits?

Students will examine the pros and cons of having low-paid foreign workers grow food or make consumer goods for export to the United States, and they will role-play people involved in the strawberry export industry.


· To discuss the ramifications of using goods made in other countries

· To discuss workers' living conditions

· To analyze an example of export agriculture and examine the problems of different people involved in export agriculture

· To develop a possible solution or solutions to the problems of one group involved in export agriculture

· To see how one group's solution affects other groups

· To develop a possible solution to the problems of all groups


· Student handouts: Red Berries, Green Harvest Role Cards
· Blackboard and chalk, or paper and markers


Two class periods


Class discussion, essay based on the questions in step 6


export agriculture, pesticide


1. Begin the discussion by asking students to name products produced in other countries. (You can use the handout Where Our Food Comes From in lesson 2 for background.) You can ask students to check labels on various items: clothing, shoes, electronic equipment, etc. Ask if there are any problems with producing goods in other countries, such as the low wages paid to workers in many underdeveloped countries. Explain that even when foreign workers are paid low wages, the prices paid by U.S. consumers do not change very much.

2. Either read to the class or assign the handout Red Berries, Green Harvest describing the movement of a portion of the strawberry-growing industry from the United States to Mexico.

3. Divide students into six groups and hand out role cards to each group. Each group plays one character, and everyone in the group should have the card for their character. Give students time to discuss their roles. Write the name of each group on the board, and ask members of each group to describe a problem that their group has. Actual descriptions of the problems are on the role cards. Write the problems on the board with each group name.

4. Give the groups fifteen minutes to come up with solutions to the problems in the strawberry story.

5. After students have discussed their ideas about solutions within their groups, have each group present its problem and solution to the class. Write their suggestions on the board. Ask the other groups to react. Are there some groups with mutual concerns? Are there groups who don't agree on a solution?

6. Wrap up by discussing the following points:

a. Did anyone benefit from the situations in the strawberry story? If so, who benefited? Did that person or group have any problems? What were they?

b. Can you think of some examples in which a minority benefit and a majority live in hunger or poverty? South Africa is a prime example. What are the costs of having only a small minority do well while the majority suffer? Some examples are U.S. corporations continuing to flee to other countries where the wages are low, people fleeing to the United States to either gain higher wages or escape conditions that keep them poor, people resisting hunger and opposing their governments, militarization and the likelihood of war increasing.

c. Do you think that world hunger affects you? Name some ways.



· Circle of Poison (book), by David Weir and Mark Schapiro


Students can strengthen the ties between themselves and third world students by organizing a sister schools project.

Sister schools are being set up across the United States. When your school becomes a sister school to a school in an underdeveloped country, you will have the opportunity to learn a great deal about that country. You and your students can write letters to foreign students, raise funds for the sister school to buy materials, and even work toward a student exchange with other schools.

Teachers and students in Saint Louis, Missouri, have begun a program called School to School, in which their school has adopted a school in Haiti. The students in the United States raise $150 a month to help pay a teacher and buy hot lunches, school supplies, and sporting goods.

· Educators for Social Responsibility (organization)
· School to School (slide show)

Red berries, green harvest

A bowl of strawberries in milk. You wouldn't think these innocent berries have such a complicated life story. The berries in your bowl have traveled here from southern Mexico. Why do they come from so far away when they can grow in the United States?

Red berries, green harvest

In the 1960s, U.S. fruit distributors decided that U.S. consumers should have strawberries available during the off-season, when it was too cold to grow them in the United States. Large amounts of money were spent signing up farmers and building processing factories in Mexico, where berries could be grown during the U.S. winter. As it turned out, the Mexican growing season overlapped the U.S. season by three months and created a surplus of strawberries in the United States. The extra berries were frozen, so the grocery store prices paid for fresh strawberries stayed high. Wages paid to strawberry pickers in both countries declined during the following seasons since there were abundant frozen strawberries.

Strawberry growing in Mexico was modeled after strawberry growing in the United States, but it proved to be much cheaper for the fruit companies. Irrigation water, land, and labor were much cheaper in Mexico than in the United States. There were also fewer restrictions concerning the use of pesticides and fertilizers than in the United States. Even though most of the mechanical equipment had to be imported from the United States, it was the Mexican farm owner or manager who paid for this, not the fruit company.

While many Mexican farmworkers flocked to the strawberry farms to find work, it was temporary work at best. These workers moved their homes and found work for only six months at a time. U.S. farmworkers sometimes lost their Jobs, too, if fruit companies decided to cut U.S. production in favor of cheaper berries from Mexico.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumers might have thought they'd be getting berries for less money. A trip to the store revealed that the strawberry price hadn't dropped at all.

- Based on Ernest Feder, Strawberry Imperialism (Mexico City: Editorial Campesina, 1978)

Role cards