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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 2: How much food is there?

Students will use graphs and statistics to learn how much food is produced in various countries and how many people are hungry in those countries. They will discuss their ideas about why hunger and abundance can exist side by side.


· To interpret graphs on world food production and hunger using math and analytical skills
· To analyze statistics about five countries where there is food available but hunger persists
· To gain confidence and critical thinking ability with graphs and other statistics


· Student handouts: How Much Food Is There? Country cards (one card per group)
· World map (optional)
· Grain samples (optional, can be obtained by teacher at natural food stores or at feed stores)


Fifty minutes


Study questions can be turned in.


calorie, export, food bank, food stamps, food supply, import, statistics

How much food is there


1. Tell students that the class will be studying statistics on food production and hunger to better understand whether food scarcity is the cause of hunger. Begin by asking students to come up with examples of statistics they have seen (about hunger or any other topic). Do they know the sources of those statistics? Do they ever wonder how those statistics were collected? What do they think when a speaker uses a lot of statistics? Do numbers confuse or do they help a person understand? Why are statistics sometimes confusing?

2. Divide the class into five groups. Each group will be studying one country's food situation.

3. Give each student a copy of the handout How Much Food Is There? This handout contains graphs for analysis and study questions about each group's country. You will need to explain what calories are if you haven't done activity 1 of this lesson.

4. Now distribute one country card to each group. The groups will need information on the country card to complete their worksheets. Ask students to complete their worksheets by working together.

The country cards contain information about food supply in each country as determined by the UN (expressed in calories and in bowls" of grain). They also contain information on the extent of hunger in the country. Since most countries do not collect information on the percentage of their population that is malnourished, it is difficult to get this information. The Is There Hunger? section of each card uses statistics compiled from different sources. Finally, the cards contain some information on why people can't get food in each country. The countries represented were chosen for different reasons. Ethiopia was chosen because it is thought of as a hunger "basket case." Brazil is the largest and most populous country in South America. The Philippines have been in the news and students have at least some familiarity with that country. South Africa is a highly industrialized country that forces the majority of its people to live in underdeveloped conditions. Finally, the United States is used because it is familiar to the students.

5. After students have completed their handout How Much Food Is There?, wrap up by discussing the questions. Make sure to spend some time discussing what students think happens to the food that doesn't reach the hungry in each country. You might want to list all countries on the board with points brought out in discussion.

Point out to students that even at the worst point of the Ethiopian famine, food was available in stores for people who could pay for it. Try to get students' reactions to this and their suggestions for changing the situation. Do students have any ideas about why high food production and high levels of hunger can exist side by side? (Activity 3 addresses this issue.)



· The Challenge to End Hunger(slideshow, filmstrip, or video), Food First
· Four Myths of Hunger: An Evening with Frances Moore Lappnd Joseph Collins (video), Food First
· Habanaae: The Animal of Friendship (filmstrip), Oxfam America
· Hunger Hotline Revisited: Global Food Crisis (film), Church World Service
· New lnternationalist (periodical)
· Oxfam America (organization)


Food stamp and government nutrition programs are vital to many people in the United States. Students can write to members of Congress to express concern about these programs, which are frequent, targets of budget cutting measures.

How much food is there - continued


1. How did food production change between 1970 and 1980?
2. How did the number of hungry people change between 1970 and 1980?
3. Do you think there is a worldwide scarcity of food? Why or why not?
4. From your group's country card, answer the following questions:

Country studied______________________________________________________________
How much food is there per person?_____________________________________________
Are there hungry people in this country? How do you know?___________________________
Why can't hungry people in the country you studied get food?__________________________


Is there hunger?

· In Northeastern Brazil, 22% of the rural children show long-term malnutrition.
· It is estimated that 86 million Brazilians (out of about 130 million) do not get enough to eat.

Why cant hungry people get food?

· Brazil is the second largest exporter of food in the world.
· The poorest 20% of the people get only 2% of the income.


Is there hunger?

· Average life expectancy is 44 years (75 in the U.S.).
· The U.N. estimated in 1977 that 4 out of 10 people received below starvation levels of food (less than 1500 calories).

Why can't hungry people get food?

· In 1983, Ethiopia exported almost 4 times as much food as it imported.

· The government keeps grain prices paid to farmers very low in order to keep food prices cheap for urban dwellers, who are more likely to riot if unable to buy food. The rural people, scattered and unorganized, sink deeper into poverty.

· 1.5 million people have been removed from their homes (and ability to grow food) by war.

The Philippines

Is there hunger?

· 1000 children die of malnutrition and infectious diseases each day. When people's ability to fight disease is reduced by poor nutrition, even measles can kill them.

Why can't hungry people get food?

· 40,000 tons of rice were exported in 1983.

· Plantation workers (much of the rural population) earn $1-2 each day and must pay taxes on that.

· The richest 20% of the people get 54% of the income; the poorest 20% get 5% of the income.

South Africa

Is there hunger?

· 50,000 black children starve every year.
· One out of three black children is malnourished.

Why can't hungry people get food?

· Blacks make up over 70% of the population, but they can only live on 13% of the land (the least productive land).

· The average black worker makes $248/month; the average white worker makes $1,024/month.


Is there hunger?

· Being poor often means being hungry. 5 million more Americans lived in poverty in 1984 than in 1980.

· The health of 1 out of 5 children under 6 years old is endangered by hunger.

· Up to 20 million people (out of 240 million) have to go hungry at least once every month.

Why cant hungry people get food?

· Cuts in human service programs (such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and child nutrition) from 1982 to 1985 were $110 billion.

· Surplus food sits in storage, waiting for prices to go up. Enough food is stored to give everyone in the U.S. 50 pounds of dairy products.