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close this bookExploding the Hunger Myths - High School Curriculum (FF, 1987, 173 p.)
close this folderLesson 2: Is scarcity the problem?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentActivity 1: Diet diary
View the documentActivity 2: How much food is there?
View the documentActivity 3: Where does the food go?
View the documentActivity 4: Hunger in the midst of plenty

Activity 3: Where does the food go?

Students will read several short handouts about ways that the global food system allows people to go hungry when food warehouses are full. They will then draw, write, or talk about how certain aspects of food distribution affect people's lives in different parts of the world.


· To investigate where some foods are grown and where they are consumed

· To explore why people who grow food often do not have access to the food they grow or control over the land on which it is grown

· To express thoughts and feelings about the global food system through artwork, graphics, or writing


· Student handouts: Where Our Food Comes From (map) The Human Cost of Bananas Cows for Fast Food A Day in the Life of a Blueberry Picker

· Large world map

· Paper, markers, paints


Fifty minutes for readings and discussion. May require additional out-of-class time for completion of individual or group projects.


Pictures, poems, songs, or stories can be turned in.


consumer, producer



1. Since this activity involves learning about people who grow the food we eat, it is important to emphasize the global nature of the food system. Distribute the map Where Our Food Comes From and discuss the origins of several food products. You might ask students to make a list of foods and guess where they come from, or you can examine a school lunch or other meal and determine where the foods are grown. Where is the wheat in the bread grown? Where is the meat raised? If students are unsure, they can be assigned to investigate where foods originate. This can involve label reading at the grocery store and library work.

2. Each student should read one of the three stories, The Human Cost of Bananas, Cows for Fast Food, or A Day in the Life of a Blueberry Picker. Distribute these handouts accordingly and point out the location of each story on a world map.

3. Allow time for students to read in class or assign the handout overnight.

4. After the students have completed their reading, each student or group of students can complete a project from the following:

a. Draw a map or flow chart to illustrate the fate of the food the farmer grows or how that farmer's life relates to the rest of the world (as gathered from the reading). This technique for helping people better understand social and economic systems is described in the book Ah-hah! A New Approach to Popular Education, by GATT-Fly.

b. Draw a picture portraying the life of the person in the reading.

c. Write a poem, song, or story about the life of the person in their reading.

5. After students have finished their projects, ask them to share their pieces with the class. You can save space on a bulletin board in the classroom or even arrange for a schoolwide display of the students' work.

6. Wrap up this activity by discussing the following questions:

a. Why are these people, who are producers of food, unable to eat that food?
b. What are some concrete actions that would end hunger for the people in the readings?



· Agribusiness Goes Bananas (slide show), Center for Rural Studies
· Agribusiness in the Americas (book), by Roger Burbach and Patricia Flynn
· The Business of Hunger(video), Maryknoll Films
· Farm Labor Organizing Committee (organization)
· Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast (filmstrip), Packard Manse Media
· In the Rainforest (book), by Catherine Caulfield
· Rainforest Action Network (organization)
· United Farm Workers (organization)


Students can protest poor working conditions for farm workers by writing to the president of the company responsible (addresses of such companies are available from the United Farm Workers or the Farm Labor Organizing Committee) or by writing to government officials. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (200 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20201 ) is responsible for enforcing laws regarding field safety and health conditions. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (14th & Independence Avenues SW, Washington, DC 20250) is responsible for enforcing agriculture related policies.


Consumer boycotts are often organized against companies that force employees to work for little money or in horrible conditions. Students can join boycotts or organize their own.

· National Boycott News (periodical)

Where our food comes from

The human cost of bananas

Anselmo Paga is a sixty-seven-year-old Filipino farmer. He lives with his wife and five children, all but one of whom work on the banana plantation. Here he tells what happened to him and his family when the banana plantations were started by Del Monte and Dole.

"After the war, we became tenants of Beldua [a local landowner]. Our crops were corn and fiber. I was tilling a three-acre plot, but not in this area. It was somewhere near the present banana-packing plant.

"When the company started here, we did not know what to do. We were living on that land that is now full of bananas. We were just told to leave. Three weeks later they bulldozed our crops and the posts of our houses. So what could we do?

The human cost of bananas

"They paid us only a few hundred pesos. For my three acres of crops, they gave me 300 pesos [about $20]. Others got even less. Some did not get anything.

"Most of the landowners like Beldua and Umangkog became banana growers. But the land is not really theirs anymore because they have so much debt to the company.

"Nowadays you can barely count on your fingers those who remained farmers. Everybody seems to be working for the company. If I can help it, I will never work for the company. So I grow a little bit of corn on this land. Life is really hard today, even for the workers. Even on Sundays people are working. They have to earn.

"Our life was better before. Today all the workers have their masters. They cannot stop their work to rest, even for a moment, because if they do they will be kicked out."

- Based on ICL Research Team, The Human Cost of Bananas
(Manila: JCL, 1979)

peso, plantation, tenant

Cows for fast food

Carlos Castillo and his family moved onto their small plot of land in central Honduras because the landlord offered to rent it to them at a reasonable price. Their first job was to cut down the forest, then to torch the fallen trees. After that, they could plant food crops of corn, beans, and vegetables and a cash crop of chile peppers to sell at the local market.

In the rental agreement, Carlos agreed to plant pasture grass between the rows of his crops. He also agreed to vacate the land once the pasture grass took hold. Because Carlos cannot read, the agreement was explained to him at his first meeting with the landlord. He did not like the arrangement but had little choice. Where else would he find land to rent?

Cows for fast food

When the Castillo family has done the hard labor of clearing and preparing the land, they will have to move on. The land will be converted to pasture for cattle. The meat from these cattle will not be eaten by Hondurans, but it will be exported to the United States for use in fast-food restaurants.

Since 1960, Honduras has recorded a decline in the growth of food crops. At the same time, production of export crops such as cotton, coffee, and sugar has increased. In 1957, no beef was exported from Honduras. In 1978, 60 percent of the beef grown in Honduras was exported. The demand for land to raise even more beef pushes Carlos and his family farther into the forest every year.

- Based on Billie DeWalt, "The Cattle Are Eating the Forest,- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 39, January 1983


cash crop, export

A day in the life of a blueberry picker

"During the summer, some 3,000 of us leave Philadelphia to work in the farms of New Jersey. Half of us are Puerto Ricans, the rest black, and some are white. About 5 a.m. the buses begin to come around. The crew leader or one of his flunkies says, 'Come on, I have good blueberries, and we pay $1.20.' They pay for blueberries by the carrier, which holds twelve pints.

"A regular worker picks an average of thirteen carriers when the blueberries are good and four when they are not. So when we have a good day we make $16, and when we have a bad day we make $5.

A day in the life of a blueberry picker

"When the driver has finally filled his bus, we leave for the farms in New Jersey. By now it is 6 a.m. In the bus some of us sleep or talk. The bus, an old thing that is falling apart, is going like a jet.

"I look out and see the big houses with swimming pools and the other blueberry buses racing one another so they can get the best places in the fields. I think of the dilapidated house in Philadelphia where I live. How much money must the owners of these big houses have! I'm sure they don't even know the blueberry pickers exist. They only know that vegetables and fruits arrive at their table through the wonders of the supermarket.

"We arrive at Hamonton. It is 7:15. We tie the cans to our waists and pick a couple of carriers. The farmer says we have to wait until they dry a little. At 8:00 they are dry, and we get to it.

"The sun is hot and it is 12:00. The people are hungry and thirsty and buy beer, soda, and lunch from the Quick Lunch brought in by the crew leader. He charges double what it costs in the store. It is easy to spend here in the field what we earn with a lot of sweat.

"Suddenly, we hear a shout, 'Children under twelve, the inspectors are coming.' They tell the farmer he needs another bathroom because the one he has us using is flooded. The farmer protests that it costs too much. His son passes on a new motorcycle while this is going on. I think to myself, will a bathroom cost more than a motorcycle? The cops [inspectors] leave and the children keep working.

"In the store in Philadelphia, I saw the blueberries for 60 cents a pint. Over here we melt in the sun to earn 10 cents a pint. There are 350 berry pickers working. With one week of our sweat, the farmer and the others can buy a house with a backyard and a pool."

- Based on a story from Palante, reprinted in Anthony Dunbar and Linda Kravitz, Hard Traveling (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger Publishing, 1976)


carrier, dilapidated, flunkie