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Where does our food come from?

Posted by Olivia Paine Education and Youth Communications and Project Officer

18th Oct 2017

Last month the United Nations published a report which showed that for the first time in over a decade, world hunger is on the rise again. Look beyond this shocking statistic with your learners to explore the global food system.

There are now 815 million people across the world who are going hungry; 11% of the global population. Importantly, the United Nations report has illustrated the pressing need to tackle the underlying causes of hunger. Conflict was highlighted as a key contributor and is increasingly interacting with climate change and weather phenomena like El Niño.

The global food system is extremely complex but at Oxfam we believe that one thing is certain: there is enough food to feed everyone.

Global food supplies have more than doubled in the last 40 years, surpassing the rate of population growth. However, the global market has led to a situation in which some countries are exporting foodstuffs overseas yet people within those countries don't have enough to eat. It's a surprising fact that many of the world's hungry people are women and men that actually produce food themselves on small plots of land.

This inequality raises many questions to consider with your learners. Who benefits from food sales and what role do consumers have to play?

Use these simple activities to think about the global food system with your learners.

1.  What's in my basket?

Either provide a bag of shopping or ask your learners to draw their own baskets filled with the food that they usually eat at home. As a group discuss the different types of food, what they like about them and what is needed to have a healthy diet. Plot on a map the different countries where the foods were grown. Research how far these different foods had to travel to reach our plates and discuss how dependant we are on farmers in other countries. You could use Oxfam's Go Bananas resource to follow the journey of a banana with your learners. Oxfam has also produced an interactive food index to illustrate dietary issues across the world.

2.  What's the problem?

Use this infographic from Oxfam America to explore issues of food insecurity. There are different levels of food insecurity with famine being the most serious threat to individuals and communities. Use a why, why, why chain to consider the reasons why people are going hungry in different parts of the world. Remember that the UN's report found that conflict and climate change are driving hunger. Whilst there are no right or wrong answers for this activity, the complex subject matter may mean that it is more suited to older learners.  You can learn more about why, why, why chains on page 12 of our Teacher's Guide.

3.  Female food heroes

Oxfam works with women farmers to make sure that they can manage floods and drought, and can access what they need to grow their business. Use these inspirational real life stories from Oxfam in Cambodia to explore the lives of female farmers in Asia and use an issue tree to analyse how they overcame the obstacles they have faced. Ask your learners to draw a tree on a blank piece of paper and to write an issue faced by one of the women on the trunk. Ask them to then write possible causes on the roots, effects on the branches and solutions on the leaves. These will have been included in the stories but your learners could also include their own ideas. Learn more about issue trees on page 13 of our Teacher's Guide.

4.  Creative communication

Use the stories of the Asian Women Farmers as inspiration and ask your learners to produce their own pieces of creative writing. Use additional stories from the female farmers Oxfam works with to springboard their stories. This is an opportunity for your learners to think about life as a small-scale farmer and about the challenges they face. Similarly to the stories of the Asian Women Farmers, your learners could follow a pattern of problem, effect, solution in which case they may wish to create an issue tree first to help plan their writing.

5.  Local action, global impact

There are lots of changes we can make in our personal lives which will have an impact on communities in other parts of the world. We can choose to buy local food, promote Fairtrade in our schools, and reduce the amount of food we waste. Ask your learners if there are any other actions which they could take to help tackle the broken food system. You could then use a consequences wheel to explore the impact of each of these options. Learn more about a consequences wheel on page 14 of our Teacher's Guide.

Blog post written by Olivia Paine

Education and Youth Communications and Project Officer

More by Olivia Paine