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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?


COMMON ASSUMPTION: People in poor countries have little in common with people in rich countries.


This lesson asks students to investigate the parallels between the people of the industrialized and underdeveloped countries. Students will document the food situation for U.S. producers and consumers and compare it with the situations of third world people.


Life on the Farm is a reading, discussion, and interview exercise comparing the lives of farmers in the West African country of Senegal with those of farmers in the United States. It concentrates on the development of export-based agriculture, farmers' loss of control over production, and farmers' loss of land.


Selling Food has students look at techniques used to sell food and compare the effects of advertising on people's food purchases. They read about international infant formula marketing and then investigate food advertising in the U.S. media.


Who Suffers, Who Benefits? is a problem-solving exercise in which students role-play several groups of people affected by export agriculture. The activity helps point out that we in industrialized countries do not benefit in the long nun when farmers and workers in underdeveloped countries work for low wages and in poor working conditions.


Terms like rich country and poor country mask the fact that hunger exists in both industrialized and underdeveloped countries. They allow us to think of hunger as only occurring "over there." This leads to an us-versus-them mentality that blinds us to all that we have in common with the people of the third world.

There are inequities in food and wealth distribution in countries with low gross national products (GNP) such as Ethiopia and in countries with high gross national products such as the United States. In both countries, the poorest 20 percent of the people have very little land or income.' In both "poor" and "rich" countries, we see increasing concentration of resources in the hands of fewer people. Ever greater amounts of many countries' resources are geared to export production, producing goods to be sold to those who can afford them in other countries. Throughout the world, we also see customs, tastes, and traditions falling victim to marketing and advertising strategies.

Consider the plight of most U.S. farmers. When selling their crops, farmers must compete with thousands of other producers and so they are "price takers" - they have no control over the price they receive. But the manufacturers who sell farmers seeds, machines, and fertilizers face much less competition. As activity 1 demonstrates, just a handful of companies dominate sales. The same holds true among the buyers of major farm commodities. Just a few large food processors and grain traders buy virtually all American grain. Thus the corporate sellers of farm supplies and the corporate buyers of farm commodities are "price makers" - they can always increase their prices to ensure themselves a profit. But farmers cannot. They are caught in the middle.

Thus the prices farmers must pay for supplies - including the price of money (interest rates) - go up while the prices farmers receive for their commodities do not. The profits farmers earn from each acre fall, and more and more acres are required just to make ends meet. Farmers who can stay in business are those who are wealthy enough or have off-farm income to allow them to squeak through the lowest price dips.

Farmers without enough savings or non-farm income often lose their land because they mortgage it to pay for the costs of farming. As described in the handout Hard Times in the Heartland, farmers can borrow money on the equity they have in their land - the difference between what they owe on the land and the current market price. When land values went up in the 1970s, farmers could borrow more money on the same piece of land to invest in farming. But then prices for crops fell. Many farmers couldn't make their loan payments and had to sell off land.

With more land on the market, the market price of land went down, too. Then the banks had to tell the farmers their land wasn't worth enough to back up the loans. Unless the farmer comes up with money to pay back some of the loan, or more property for security, the banks often foreclose - demand full payment or take the land immediately to try to cut their losses.

Through this process, income from farming becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. By the early 1980s, the richest 1 percent of farmers received about 60 percent of net farm income.

Farmers in industrialized countries and in underdeveloped countries face many similar problems. They lack control over what they produce. More and more of their production is geared to the export market, where fluctuations in demand are much more extreme than in the domestic market. They find themselves becoming debt-ridden in order to stay in business. They cannot control the prices they must pay for materials or the prices they are paid for their products. Large numbers of farmers are losing their land and moving to cities or becoming tenants on the land they formerly owned.

As food production becomes increasingly concentrated, so does food distribution and marketing. While there are 20,000 food manufacturing firms in the United States, fifty of those companies control about two-thirds of the industry's assets. Large companies continue to buy out small companies every year. The monopoly control of food can increase prices for all. Witness the breakfast cereal market - over one hundred different types of cereal virtually all controlled by three companies. Such monopoly control of the food industry results in as much as $20 billion in overcharges to consumers each year.

Advertising plays a major role throughout the world, teaching consumers new food habits and influencing their choice of products. The displacement of traditional foods by sodas, chips, and sweets has serious nutritional and economic effects. This is especially true for the poor, be they in New York or Nairobi. If their food dollar goes to buy low-nutrition food, there is nothing left for foods their bodies really need. Every day we are exposed to hundreds of messages about food. Packages, billboards, magazines, and television and radio commercials are influencing our tastes and food habits. In underdeveloped countries, food companies have used advertising to create markets for imported food products. An ad used in Africa in the 1970s appealed to parents' desire for their children's success with a picture showing a healthy African boy and the statement "He'll be smart. He'll go far. He'll eat bread." This ad equated intelligence and success with eating a nonindigenous food (wheat) that will not even grow well in much of Africa.

A problem with falling into the rich world, poor world mentality is that we can begin to believe that somehow we in the industrialized countries benefit from the poverty of workers in underdeveloped countries. We fail to see that in the long nun we do not benefit, we actually suffer. In the case of bananas, for example, plantation workers receive only 1 to 2 percent of the selling price of bananas. Only 11 percent of the money the consumer pays even stays in the country where the bananas are grown. Eighty-nine percent of the cost of bananas goes to the companies selling and distributing the product. If workers received double the wages they now receive, it would not substantially increase the grocery store price of bananas. The banana companies would only have to give up a small proportion of their profits.

Many underdeveloped countries, such as the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaysia have set up free trade zones with laws that prevent workers from organizing unions for better working conditions or higher wages. Transnational corporations move their manufacturing facilities away from the industrialized countries to take advantage of these free trade zones. Again, the prices to U.S. consumers do not drop significantly when products are grown or made by low-paid workers. A study by the AFL-CIO recently examined two brand-name shirts, one made in the United States and one made in Singapore. The shirts sold for the same price in the United States, but the shirt made in Singapore cost about half as much to produce, thus benefiting the transnational corporation.

Mexican peasants and the green revolution

The examples above demonstrate that the consumer in developed countries does not actually benefit a great deal by buying goods produced by poor workers. We can also see that enforced low wages and poor work conditions can actually hurt consumers in developed countries.

One way poor work conditions can hurt the consumer in developed countries is illustrated by the "circle of poison." This phenomenon occurs when companies in the United States and Europe export dangerous pesticides (often illegal where they are produced) to underdeveloped countries. To save time and money for the growers of crops, these pesticides are often used without proper equipment or instruction. Sometimes stocks of illegal pesticides are sold cheaply to dump remaining supplies. The illegal or dangerous chemicals damage the health of workers who grow the export crops, and the residues of these pesticides return to the developed country in imported food.

Hungry and poor people do not remain passive. Where adequate food, health care, and a decent salary are denied - as in the case of many free trade zones and agricultural plantations - people try to improve their lives. They may organize unions, strikes, boycotts, or educational campaigns. They may try to form cooperatives or other alternative work situations. In many countries, such as Guatemala and the Philippines under Marcos, these attempts at organization have been violently struck down by the armed forces. We often see our tax dollars being used to give aid to armies fighting their own people. (Lesson 6 covers the role of aid and development more fully.) Increasing amounts of people's incomes (in both the developed and underdeveloped countries) are feeding a growing militarization throughout the world. Ultimately, this hurts us all.


1. How has farming changed in the United States and abroad in the last century?
2. Why are farmers in different countries losing their land and being forced to move to cities?
3. What influences people to buy certain foods? Does advertising promote informed choices?
4. What are some problems with marketing food as just another product like stereos or cars?
5. How can export agriculture affect growers, farmworkers, and consumers? What are some of the effects in the exporting and the importing country?
6. What are some ways hunger and poverty affect everyone?

Activity 1: Life on the farm

Students will read about peanut farmers in Senegal and about U.S. farmers. They will interview a local farmer and then discuss similarities and differences in farming around the world.


· To compare farming in Senegal and the United States with respect to recent changes and the control of production and sales
· To interview a farmer and discuss what it is like to be a farmer
· To develop a class presentation based on research about farmers


· Student handouts:

Peanuts, Profits, and Poverty
Hard Times in the Heartland
Interviewing a Farmer

· Poster board or newsprint, markers


Thirty minutes to one hour for teacher's introduction, two to five hours for students' research, and two hours for class presentation


Written or oral answers to study questions, class presentation can be graded.


developed country, gross national product, natural resources, underdeveloped country, World Bank


1. Ask students if they think there are "rich" countries and ´'poor" countries.

If a country has lots of resources, do students consider it a "rich" country? You can discuss their responses by comparing Zaire and France. Zaire has more than seventeen acres of land per person and France has only 2.47. Zaire is also rich in minerals such as cobalt, copper, and diamonds while France is relatively poor in minerals.

If a country produces lots of high-tech equipment like stereos and computers, is it a rich country? If students think of the U.S. and Japan, they'll say yes. Point out that Mexico and the Philippines produce high-tech equipment, yet are not considered rich countries.

Discuss with students how we are often taught to look for the differences between ourselves and people in other countries, rather than the similarities. Dwelling on differences leads to stereotyping others, breakdowns in communication, and blaming others for problems. (Students can discuss times they've been stereotyped and the problems and ill feelings it created.)

"Poor" and "rich" hide the fact that people all over the world face many similar problems. Tell students that this activity will compare the lives of farmers in a third world country with farmers in the United States.

2. Pass out the three student handouts for this lesson. Explain that students will be comparing the United States to another country to decide whether the causes of hunger exist only in "poor" countries or whether some of the same problems are faced by people in both "poor" and "rich" countries.

3. Give the students an opportunity to meet with each other to decide how to complete their handouts. They may also need to divide the tasks or organize out-of-class time to work on presenting their information to the rest of the class. Assist as needed in helping them organize their work.

4. Arranging an interview with a farmer can be a learning experience for students, but there may not be time for them to find a farmer. In that case, you can locate a farmer for students by following the procedure in the student handout Interviewing a Farmer.

5. When students begin to work on their presentations, try to schedule time with them to go over ideas, give suggestions, etc. Suggest that students use the questions on their handouts to help them decide on important points for their presentations. They should also start thinking ahead for ideas on how to present their findings. Presentation ideas might include oral reports, panel discussions (perhaps with guest farmers), graphs, charts, posters, flow charts, maps, collages, poems, plays, skits, songs, and quizzes (perhaps done in a game format).

6. Schedule class time for presentations. Afterward, discuss what students have learned.

7. Wrap up this activity by discussing ways that farmers in both the United States and Senegal could improve their situation.



· Agribusiness in the Americas (book), by Roger Burbach and Patricia Flynn
· American Agriculture Movement (organization)
· American Friends Service Committee (organization)
· Center for Rural Affairs (organization)
· The Fat of the Land (book), by Fred Powledge
· Gaia: An Atlas of Planet Management (book), Norman Myers, ed.
· Rural Advance (periodical), National Sharecroppers' Fund/Rural Advancement Fund


Students can use the farmer interview as the basis for an article in the school or local newspaper. Students can view a film or video, write a review for the school paper, and then show the film after school or to other classes. Suggested films:

· Hamburger, USA, American Friends Service Committee
· Potatoes, National Film Board of Canada
· Roots of Hunger, Roots of Change, Church World Service

Peanuts, profits, and poverty

If you don't live on a farm, it's easy to forget that food is not just something bought at a store. Whether it's an apple or a nacho chip, it began on a farm. All over the world people spend the* lives growing food for other people to eat.

This project compares the lives of farmers in two countries, Senegal and the United States. As part of the project you will study readings about farming in Senegal and in the United States and perhaps interview a farmer. Please answer the study questions following each reading.

Begin by locating Senegal on a world map. It is a small country in West Africa. It is a low-income country, according to the World Bank.


Long before Columbus sailed to the Americas, in the part of West Africa that today is Senegal and western Mali, the Wolof and Serer peoples established prosperous societies. Their economies were based on agriculture and on trade with the desert-dwelling nomads of North Africa. Skilled weavers and ironworkers produced cotton and woolen cloth, tools, knives, and cooking utensils.

The peasant farmers' fields in the river valleys were watered and enriched by annual floods. When the floodwaters receded, the farmers planted the nutritious grain sorghum. On higher ground they grew millet, watered by the seasonal rains.

Farmers traded their extra grain to nomadic herders in exchange for milk, butter, meat, and hides. Because this trade took place between relatively equal partners, neither group prospered at the other's expense. Although they lived in the arid Sahel region on the edge of the Sahara desert, the exchange between farmers and herders helped both to survive droughts.

In 1659, France established a slave-trading outpost on the Senegalese coast. About one-eighth of the slaves traded to North America were taken by way of Senegal's port. During the nineteenth century, French armies conquered the interior of the country.

The French colonial rulers then set about to change the region's economy into a source of wealth for French investors. For the Senegalese people this meant shifting from producing food and crafts and supporting only themselves to producing enough goods both for themselves and the French. In economic terms, this is called shifting from a subsistence economy to a market economy. The French administrators also decreased trade among Africans by taxing the sale of locally made products. Artisans were put out of business by the taxes, and traditional manufacturing of cloth, shoes, tools, and soap declined. This helped create a market for products sold by French trading companies.

Additional taxes were imposed on men, women, and children over the age of seven. Those who couldn't pay were jailed and sometimes brutally tortured or forced to labor for the French. To get cash to pay their taxes and to buy goods now available only from France, Senegalese peasants had to grow new crops for sale to French traders.

Peanuts for Sale

The crop desired by the French was peanuts, a profitable source of oil. Regular shipments of peanuts to France began in 1884. The amount exported rapidly increased to 200,000 tons in 1914 and to over 1 million tons in 1965.

By 1970, Senegalese farmers had to supply six tons of peanuts in order to obtain the same amount of goods they had bought for one ton of peanuts in the early days of the trade. This meant that the farmers had to bring more and more land under peanut cultivation.

The more land used to grow peanuts, the less there was to grow vegetables and grain. Most food was eaten in the month right after the harvest. Little or none was left to trade or to store in case of drought. In this way Senegal's food self-sufficiency was destroyed.

To make up for the shortage of food, Senegal began importing rice from the French colonies in Indochina. (There, as in West Africa, peasants were forced by taxation and the loss of their farmland to produce cash crops for export.) Even with food imports, food availability in Senegal has continued to decline.


Invitation to the Desert

In addition to removing land from food production, peanut farming caused great ecological damage. Peanuts deplete the soil of minerals and organic matter. Constant plowing and harvesting exposed the soil to the wind and increased soil erosion.

For generations the peasants had conserved the land by cultivating millet and sorghum, planting alternating rows of peanuts and grain, and allowing the land to lie fallow for several years between crops. The pressure to produce peanuts for the world market forced them to abandon their preferred farming methods. Increased peanut cultivation was an invitation to the desert to expand its boundaries.

When harvests were bad, hunger forced poorer peasants to sell their land to the wealthier farmers in exchange for food. The result was the development of a small class of well-off farmers and absentee landowners and a much larger class of landless laborers made up of the farmers who had been forced to sell out.

Not only small farmers but nomadic herders also suffered. It became harder for them to obtain grain from the peasants in exchange for animal products. Farming areas, which had provided grass and grain for herds during droughts, were now used to grow peanuts. Herders could no longer seek refuge in the river valleys during drought and had to graze their herds on the already eroded desert land. The result was chronic hunger even in good years and widespread starvation in bad years. Millions of farmers were forced to leave their traditional homes to become laborers on coastal plantations or to seek work in the capital city of Dakar or in other West African countries or in France.

New Freedom, Continued Dependency

In 1960, when many African nations were achieving their independence from colonial powers, Senegal became an independent country. However, the distortion of the economy and the destruction of the environment caused by eighty years of emphasis on export agriculture remained. Senegal still had to export peanuts to pay for imported manufactured goods and rice. In 1981, Senegal imported $241 million worth of food, 28 percent of its total imports.

As an unequal trade partner, Senegal is still at a disadvantage in the world market. The price of peanuts has continued to decline in relation to the price of imported goods.

- Adapted from Kathy McAfee, Exporting Peanuts and People (Oxfam America, Boston), unpublished manuscript


absentee landowner, chronic hunger, distortion, ecological damage, economy, fallow, market economy, nomadic herder, organic matter, peasant, plantations, sorghum, subsistence economy


1. What are some changes that took place in farming communities in Senegal in the last one hundred years? What were major crops one hundred years ago? Today? What were the occupations of people in these communities? What have been the causes of these changes, according to the reading?

2. How did farmers in Senegal decide what crops to grow one hundred years ago? Today? What is a similar situation in the United States?

3. Is the number of land-owning farmers decreasing or increasing? Why is the number of farmers changing?

4. How has peanut farming affected the environment? How has peanut farming affected the culture?

5. How were Senegalese farmers hurt by the French colonialists? How did the French benefit from the Senegalese?

6. If you were a Senegalese farmer, which type of farming would you wish to do: growing food for your family, growing peanuts for cash, or both? Why?

7. Why, after gaining independence, couldn't the Senegalese go back to their traditional ways?

Hard times in the heartland

Find out what is happening with farmers in the United States and compare this with what you have learned about Senegal. The article that follows describes some of the problems of a U.S. farm family.

The United States took this part of the country, with its rich, productive soil, from the peaceful Delaware Indians in 1783.

A couple of years later, the government established the Indiana Territory. A white settler named George Clark was awarded twenty-five acres; the deed to his land was written on a piece of sheepskin. He built a small log cabin at the north end of his property, cleared the land of rock and trees and planted a crop. The cabin's stone foundation is still there.

Hard times in the heartland

It was the beginning of a central Indiana family farming legacy. The story may soon come to a sad end.

The Clarks have planted their crops in the sweet-smelling black soil for nearly two hundred springs. The land has had no other owner.

Dub Clark, sixty-two, is the current custodian of the land. He is also one of the 4,000 Indiana farmers who, state officials predict, could be wiped out in the current agricultural crisis.

"I had a dream when I got out of high school," Clark says, "I was gonna work until I was forty and then take it easy while the boys took over. I never got that dream, and I'll probably work until I drop dead.

"I'm sixty-two, and it seems the harder I work the further behind I get. I never wanted to be a rich man - just to have something to pass on to my family, like my daddy before me and his daddy and all the way back."

Clark, a proud and gentle man, is seated in his kitchen, mashing some Kentucky Club into his pipe and sipping coffee. His hands are chapped and calloused from a lifetime of outdoor labor. The possibility of losing his farm nearly renders him speechless. His soft blue eyes fill with tears and he stares into his black coffee, unable to force words out.

That such a horror could befall his family is incomprehensible to him. The Clark farm is not merely a business broken down on balance sheets. It is the fabric that binds this Midwestern family together.

Jean, Dub's wife of thirty-six years, stands behind him, gripping his shoulder. "We're scared to death," she says softly. "It's worse than the Depression. We never thought it would come to this."

The original twenty-five acres grew to 198 over the years. Dub Clark still lives in the house he was born in. His father built it in 1901. The house is wood and stone, shuttered snugly against the winter wind that roars across snow-covered fields.

The elder Clark and his sons, Stan, thirty-four, and Richie, twenty-eight, who both live within a mile of the farmhouse, work the 198 acres they own outright, plus another 1,000 leased acres. They raise corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay.

In addition to growing the crops, the Clarks operate a dairy. The eighty-five cows must be milked twice daily, a chore that takes five hours a day. The eighty hogs also must be fed, the manure dumped into a snuck and spread over the frozen fields to enrich the soil for the spring planting.

The Clarks are relatively debt free. In the autumn they can vegetables from the garden to sustain the family through the winter. Family chickens provide the eggs.

The Clarks are frugal, their lives simple and barren of frills. They work hard, attend church, vote Republican, believe in God and country, and it's still not good enough. Their American dream has become a nightmare.

Dub welcomes son Stan into the kitchen and offers him coffee. Stan drinks coffee with his parents every morning. He says he may be forced to get an extra job, something no Clark man has ever done.

"All l ever want to do is farm," he says. "But if it comes to the point where dad might lose the farm, l'd get a second job. I got two boys of my own coming up, and I want to help them, but I hope they don't go into farming. I don't think the family farm will survive that long anyway."

The ominous signs for Midwestern Corn Belt farmers appeared around 1979. Farmland peaked at $3,000 an acre. Crop prices were soaring. Expansion fever gripped many farmers. [The U.S. Department of Agriculture urged farmers to increase corn and soybean production for the export market.] Using inflated land as equity, they borrowed heavily to buy new equipment and more land, assuming the high crop prices would last forever and bankroll the debt.

The bubble burst. Crop prices dropped, land values plunged 50 percent, and interest rates soared - a deadly combination of events. The Clarks avoided the expansion trap and heavy debt burden, but still they struggle under sagging prices.

Since the late 1970s, farmers' costs for seed, fertilizer, equipment, and interest have risen steadily while prices for their crops have fallen. The Clarks estimate their break-even point is $2.30 a bushel for corn, their main crop. At harvest time in 1984, buyers paid just $2.40 a bushel, barely enough for the family to cover the interest payments on loans. [In 1985, many farmers got only $2.00 a bushel for their corn.] In 1980, by contrast, corn was selling for about $3.68 a bushel, which provided a modest profit.

"Psychologically, this is the worst I've ever seen it," says Gary Reynolds, president of Reynolds Farm Equipment, the local John Deere tractor dealer. "I've had good and decent people lie to me because they are too proud to admit they can't make the payments. I feel embarrassed for them."

Up the road in Noblesville, the county seat, the local agricultural extension agent, Rolla Parsons, estimates that 25 percent of the county's six hundred full-time farms are in financial distress

The grim truth, Parsons says, is that the successful farmer of the future will be a manager, a full-time agricultural business man, sitting behind a computer; plotting market strategy; analyzing crop prices, yield per acre, and soil composition [what the soil is made of determines ability to grow crops]. The future farmer will never sit atop a tractor. He'll hire people for field work.

“The greatest joy a farmer gets is smelling that plowed spring earth," Parsons says. ”The farmer of the future will never even step into the fields. It's a waste of his time and talent."

"How can you tell me I won't be able to turn that soil and stand out there and watch things grow?" Dub asks. "All year long l look forward to that spring day when I turn that first chunk of soil. It smells so sweet."

Dub Clark and his family farm by instinct, using techniques passed down through the generations.

"My dad always taught me if you can walk across the fields and no mud sticks to your shoes, then it's time to plant," Dub Clark says. "That's how I do it."

Someday the Clarks of Hamilton County could vanish, much like their predecessors on the land, the Delaware Indians, victims of the changing times and government policy.

"All we want is a fair return for our crops," Stan says. "Is that too much to ask of the government? We just want to farm our land."

-Adapted from "Hard Times in the Heartland," San Francisco Exampler, March 3,1985

agricultural extension agent, balance sheets, equity, interest, market strategy, predecessors, soybeans


1. Find the general location of Indiana on a world map. How has farming changed for Dub Clark and his family in the last twenty years?

2. What are the biggest expenses on the Clark farm? Why have these expenses increased so much?

3. What does Dub Clark think he can do about his situation? What would you do? What could Senegalese farmers do? If your group did not read the article on Senegal, discuss this with the group that read about Senegal.

4. Why did Dub and his family decide to farm more land, increasing the need for pesticides, fertilizer, and equipment?

5. The table below lists concentration of control over some agricultural supplies in the United States.

What effect might this control have on prices? What could you do if you didn't like the price of pesticides or tractors? What could you do if you couldn't sell your grain for as much as it cost you to grow it? (In your own community, how many companies control the supply of electricity and gas? If you do not like the prices, what can you do?) If you play the game Monopoly, what happens when your opponent controls most of the property? What parallels do you see between the problems of Senegalese and U.S. farmers?

6. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that only 27 cents of each dollar the average U.S. consumer spends on food goes to the farmer, while the rest goes toward processing, packaging, distributing, and marketing. And even most of that 27 cents going to the farmer must be paid out again to purchase farm supplies. Less than 5 cents of the consumer food dollar remains as net income for the farmer. When food prices go up, does the farmer make a lot of money? Why or why not? What situation in Senegal parallels this?

7. Can you describe any other similarities between U.S. farmers and farmers in Senegal? (Think about effects of farming on the environment; the changes that have occurred; the loss of the farms; and the control by farmers over what they grow, production costs, and prices for their crops.) You might also use information from Interviewing a Farmer to answer this question.

Who controls the supply

Interviewing a farmer

1. First, decide whether you'd like to interview a large farmer or a small one. In the United States, there can be a major difference between how a small farm (less than $100,000 in sales) is operated compared to a large farm ($500,000 or more in sales).

If you live in the city, one of the best places to locate a farmer during spring, summer, and fall is a farmers' market. If you go to a farmers' market, remember that in some places the people who sell at these markets are not all farmers. Some buy their produce from farmers or from large wholesale markets and resell it.


Remember that a market is a very busy place for most farmers, so ask if you can set up another time to interview the farmer, perhaps after the market is closed. Indicate that it will take one hour.

If you live in a rural area or small town, go to a feed store, grain elevator, or seed company and ask the people working there if they can help you find a farmer to interview.

In most counties in the United States, there is an office of the Cooperative Extension Service. It is usually listed in the phone book as (your local) County Cooperative Extension Service. This office coordinates 4-H clubs in your county and often has listings of farmers (both large and small) who are willing to be interviewed by students.

Counties throughout the United States also have local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices. One of the agencies in these offices is the Soil Conservation Service. This office may be able to provide you with the name of a farmer who could be interviewed.

National organizations of farmers could probably help you locate farmers in your area. These include:

· National Farmers Organization (NFO), 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024.
· National Farmers Union, 1012 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.
· American Agriculture Movement (AAM). 100 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002.
· Regenerative Agriculture Association, 222 Main Street, Emmaus, PA 18049.
· U.S. Farmers Association, Box 8445, Minneapolis, MN 55408.
· The Farm Bureau, (often represents views of large farmers and agribusiness)

2. Get together with your group and brainstorm questions to ask the farmer. You will find some suggested questions below to add to your own.


3. After your group has located a farmer, call her or him. Introduce yourselves, state your purpose, and ask to set up an interview. Indicate that your interview is part of a class project to study food and hunger and that your interview can be at a time that is convenient for the farmer. If you have trouble with transportation, it may be possible to conduct the interview over the phone, although this is not as informative as visiting the farm.

4. Most farmers are happy to show you around their farms, so dress neatly but be ready to go outside. Make sure you arrive on time for your interview.

Introduce yourselves. Ask the questions you prepared, but let your conversation with the farmer develop naturally. You may find out about topics that you didn't even think about beforehand!

If the farmer doesn't mind, you might wish to tape record your interview. Some people may want to take notes, while others take photographs or just listen. When your interview is done, thank the farmer.

5. Remember to write the farmer a thank-you note after the interview. This is really appreciated.

6. Have a group meeting after the interview to discuss what you learned about food production in the United States and what it is like to be a farmer. (This might be a good time to work on your presentation.)

7. Your group should meet and discuss how agriculture has changed in the United States and Senegal. How are the two countries similar? How are they different? What do you think it is like to be a farmer in either country?

You may decide to give a report to the class. Can you make any diagrams, charts, or tables to emphasize your major points? Would the farmer you interviewed like to speak to the whole class?

You could write a skit about farming. Possible scenes could include a farm family from North America or West Africa discussing why and how they have to sell the farm, a Senegalese farmer meeting a U.S. farmer, or a farmer trying to get a loan from the bank.

Activity 2: Selling food

Students will look at how advertising affects food-buying in both underdeveloped countries and developed countries.


· To read about and discuss the effects of infant formula advertising in third world countries
· To describe why advertising is so powerful
· To conduct a media watch on food advertising in the United States and analyze the messages received
· To compare the effects of advertising in the third world to the effects in the United States
· To prepare a class presentation about food advertising
· To devise positive roles for advertising


· Student handouts: Babies at Risk Media Watch
· Posterboard or newsprint paper
· Markers

Thirty minutes to one hour for the teacher's introduction, one hour in class and two or more hours of outside work for the activities, and two hours for class presentations


Written or oral answers to study questions, class presentation


infant formula, advertising

Selling food


1. Discuss with students how this activity compares the lives of consumers in developed and underdeveloped countries.

2. After giving a general introduction using information from the teacher background section, hand out Babies at Risk and Media Watch.

3. Assign students to read Babies at Risk and to complete the questions included.

4. Give students a short amount of in-class time to discuss their reactions to the reading and their answers to the questions.

5. Have students complete the Media Watch table.

6. When students have completed the table, have them discuss the questions and compare the infant formula situation with that of food advertising in the United States.

7. Help students prepare a class presentation. Ideas are included on the handouts.

8. Schedule class time for presentations.

9. Wrap up by asking students to list as many similarities as they can between consumers in underdeveloped countries and consumers in developed countries, especially the ways their food purchases are affected by advertising.



· Diet for a Small Planet (book), by Frances Moore LappR>· Eat Your Heart Out: How Food Profiteers Victimize the Consumer (book), by Jim Hightower
· Nutrition Action (periodical), Center for Science in the Public Interest


Students can join organized boycotts of food products and corporations that use false or misleading advertising.

· Cooperative Trading (newsletter), Cooperative Trading/Friends of the Third World
· INFACT (organization)
· Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (organization)
· National Boycott News (periodical)
· United Farm Workers (organization)

Babies at risk

Have you ever bought something that you really didn't need or want until you saw an advertisement? Have you thought about what made you buy it? This project examines how people are influenced in their food buying.

The first reading concerns baby formula marketing in various countries. Please read it and discuss the study questions within your group.

One example of advertising and its tragic results is the marketing of infant formula in underdeveloped countries. For the past fifty years people have been able to buy a manufactured substitute for mother's milk. This product, infant formula, can be fed to a baby from a bottle. There are many differences between breast milk and infant formula.

Babies at risk

Breast milk is fresh, unprocessed, and uncontaminated by bacteria in the environment since it goes directly from mother to baby. A mother's first milk, colostrum, is rich in digestive enzymes and antibodies (anti-infection substances) that the mother's body has made for the baby. For this reason, breast-fed babies are protected from many digestive problems and infections while they are nursing. Infant formula is made from cow's milk that has been heated, sweetened, and fortified with some vitamins. It does not contain the enzymes and antibodies of breast milk.

About 95 percent of mothers are physically able to breast-feed their infants, but many parents bottle-feed their babies because it is convenient. Bottle-feeding makes it possible for a father, other relative, friend, or daycare person to give a bottle. It may be difficult for mothers to breast-feed if they work outside the home.

When a new mother starts using formula, her milk flow is reduced. She becomes more and more dependent on purchased products and cannot easily go back to breast-feeding. Using formula also reduces the length of time a woman produces milk.

In the 1950s and 1960s, most women in the United States did not breast-feed. As education about the advantages of breast-feeding became available, more women began breast-feeding their infants. As mothers in industrialized countries returned to breast-feeding their babies, the companies that produced formula needed a new market for their product. They began to sell their product in underdeveloped countries. These companies (called transnationals because they market across national borders) had to use aggressive advertising and promotions to create a demand for their product.

Using infant formula is a luxury many poor families cannot afford. For the average worker in the third world, purchasing formula for one baby would use 40 to 60 percent of the family's budget, leaving other family members hungry. Formula is often watered down to insure that the powder or concentrate lasts longer. So babies can easily become undernourished.

Infant formula requires careful preparation, clean bottles, and access to clean water. In many countries, fewer than 10 percent of the people have access to clean water. People who do not have refrigerators have to leave prepared formula out in warm temperatures, where the formula becomes a breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria. Fuel for heating and sterilizing the bottles is often scarce, so dirty bottles have to be used. Instructions for preparing formula may be unclear, complicated, or in a foreign language.

Health organizations all over the world have described how millions of babies have become sick with infections or starved to death because of infant formula.

So how are people in underdeveloped countries stimulated to buy infant formula? Advertising is used to appeal to parents' desire to give their babies the best they can. Poor parents may see baby formula as one advantage they can afford to buy for their children. Giveaways, radio jingles, and billboards give the message that the modern, caring mother bottle-feeds her baby. Pictures of chubby, laughing babies give the impression that bottle-fed babies are healthier.

Some companies hire "mothercraft personnel" (salespeople in nurse uniforms) to give healthy baby training sessions to encourage mothers to use formula. Free samples are often given to doctors and health workers who pass them on to new mothers. The giveaways in hospitals and clinics are all the more effective because it seems to mothers that hospitals recommend formula.

After years of international protest, including a boycott of one of the major third world marketers of infant formula, the World Health Organization developed a policy forbidding the use of some of these techniques to sell infant formula because formula endangered the health of babies in poor families. Some infant formula companies have adopted this policy. Unfortunately, other companies continue to market formula as before and have actually increased sales where there are now fewer competitors.

- Based on information from Infant Formula Action Campaign, 310 E. 38th St., Suite 3091, Minneapolis, MN 55409; and Science for the People, 897 Main St., Cambridge, MA 02139


boycott, colostrum, infant formula, informed choice, transnationals, underdeveloped country


1. What are some reasons mothers would choose to bottle-feed?

2. Describe some techniques used to encourage people to use infant formula rather than breast-feed their babies. Do these techniques help consumers make an informed choice?

3. What are some of the health effects of infant formula marketing?

4. Who profits from infant formula marketing? Who is hurt by it?

5. Do you think other products are marketed to poor people in similar ways? Can you think of examples?

6. Why would companies fully aware of the nutritional problems in feeding babies formula continue to market it?

Media watch

The U.S. food industry spends billions of dollars each year on advertising and marketing of venous food products. To become more aware of efforts companies make to influence the foods we purchase, it is important to think about what advertisements tell us about foods.

Choose one of the options below and fill out the data table. (If you are working with a group of students, divide yourselves into two sections so both options can be covered.)

Media watch options


1. Scan at least three different magazines and clip food advertisements from each. Fill in the Media Watch table with descriptions of at least ten of the ads you have collected.

2. Watch at least two hours of commercial television and fill in the table whenever you view a commercial advertising a food product. You may want to divide your group so that you cover a variety of programming such as Saturday morning cartoons, daytime soap operas, weekend sports, or prime time adventure shows.


1. Describe some techniques used to encourage people to purchase certain food items. Do these techniques help consumers make informed choices about foods?

2. What sorts of food products are advertised the most? Look at the nutrition labeling on some of these products. Are they high in protein or vitamins?

3. What do you imagine are some of the health effects of food advertising? What are the effects of increasing the amount of soft drinks and snack foods in our diets?

4. Who profits from food advertising? How do advertised foods compare in price with nonadvertised or generic foods? (You might want to check this at a local supermarket.) How do advertised foods compare in nutritional value to nonadvertised or generic brands?

5. Could food advertising be used to help consumers? How?


informed choice, prime time, generic foods


1. You could do a skit showing infant formula marketing in the third world, portraying a mother and a salesperson.

2. It might be interesting to do a class survey about why classmates buy certain foods and other items such as clothes or records. Do people often choose brand names over house brands? Why? What effect does peer pressure have on the food we eat? You may want to present the results of this Media Watch on a chart.

3. You might write a questionnaire asking people to list their three favorite foods, their favorite brand names, why they choose certain foods, etc. After collecting the questionnaires, your group could lead a class discussion based on the results.

Media watch

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