Time: Part A: Exploring Attitudes - Voting with your Feet (45 minutes)

Part B: Creating a Concept Web (45 minutes)

Part C: What are the Effects of... (45 minutes)

Part D: Family Budget Activity (45 minutes)

Part E: Taking Action (Variable)

Materials: Handout 1, Hunger & Poverty Statements

Setting: Middle school - Adult groups

Participants explore their attitudes and values and develop an understanding of the relationships between hunger and other poverty-related factors in the USA. In addition, they identify actions they might take. Activities can be used separately or as an integrated curriculum.

Note: Keep in mind the socioeconomic composition of your participant population. Guard against having this activity confirm the existing inequalities in wealth and power or make certain participants uncomfortable.

PART A: Exploring Attitudes about Hunger and Poverty- Voting with your Feet (45 minutes)

1. Create a continuum on the board or the floor by writing STRONGLY AGREE at one end and STRONGLY DISAGREE at the other. Explain to participants that you will read statements about hunger and poverty in the United States. After each statement, they are to indicate their level of agreement by “voting with their feet,” walking to a spot on a continuum along the floor that reflects their opinion. Record the distribution of participant opinions on the board for the subsequent discussion. Note: Be sure to allow for those participants who feel uncomfortable participating in this activity.

2. Read some suggested statements and have the participants move about:

  • If people are hungry, it’s probably because they are wasting their money on other things.
  • There is enough food to go around.
  • Hunger and poverty are due to laziness and lack of ambition.
  • There is no hunger in my community.
  • I don’t think I will ever go hungry.
  • I would give away some of my own food or wealth to ensure that others did not go hungry.
  • People are hungry because they are poor.
  • People are poor because political and economic policies keep them poor.
  • Hunger limits people’s ability to learn and be productive.
  • The presence of hunger and poverty in this country is evidence that there is something wrong with our national priorities.
  • The government should do more to help those who are poor.
  • There will always be hunger and poverty.
  • People are hungry and poor because the rich have more than their fair share.

3. Conduct a follow-up discussion built around the following questions:

  • Which statements generated the most agreement? Which were most controversial? How do you explain this?
  • On what were you basing your opinions? Where did you get your information?
  • How did you feel about openly expressing your opinions on poverty and hunger?
  • What new thoughts or questions emerged for you as a result of doing this exercise?

4. Break participants into small groups and give each group Handout 1, Hunger and Poverty Statements. Ask the group to read the statements aloud together and discuss these questions:

  • Were any facts on this sheet a surprise and/or new information to you?
  • Do any of these facts change the way you “voted with your feet” at the start of the activity?

5. Bring the whole group back together and ask each group to report on their responses to the questions in Step 4 above. List any statements that might have caused them to “vote” differently.

6. Choose two or three of these statements and repeat Step 2. Record changes in positions on the original chart.

7. Conclude the activity with a brief discussion of the relationship between information and the formation of attitudes.

Source: Adapted from D. Katz et al., Food: Where Nutrition, Politics & Culture Meet (Washington: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1976).

PART B: Understanding Hunger as a Complex Issue: Creating a Concept Web (45 minutes)

1. Brainstorm with participants a list of terms (e.g., causes, descriptions, events) that they associate with hunger. Write these in a list on the board.

2. After generating a substantial list, involve the participants as “concepts” in creating a three dimensional web. Ask each participant to be one of the terms and attach a paper label to her/himself. Note: This might have to be done in several groups depending on the number of participants.

3. Discuss how these words relate to each other. Ask participants to describe the nature and direction of the relationship. Encourage participants to consider the interactive nature of these factors (e.g., hunger contributes to illness and illness to hunger). Then have them make connections among each other using pieces of yarn. Have them discuss the relationship as they extend the yarn.

4. As the group becomes a web of concepts and yarn, ask them to identify the essential relationships that must be addressed if hunger is to be eliminated in our nation and the world.

Some concepts to consider for the hunger web: hunger, illness, gender, malnutrition, poverty, welfare, race/racism, disability, charity, success/failure in school, population, government policies, public attitudes, foreign aid, crop surplus, employment opportunities, human rights.

Source: Adapted from Sonja William, Exploding the Hunger Myths (San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1987).

PART C: What Are the Effects of...? (45 minutes)

This activity, a variant of a concept web, uses factual statements related to hunger or poverty as a point of departure and challenges participants to think through multiple consequences. Note: You may need to demonstrate this way of thinking by working through one statement with the whole group.

1. Divide participants into pairs or small groups and assign each one of the statements from Handout 1, Statements about Hunger and Poverty. Assign more than one group the same statement to promote later discussion.

2. Have participants generate as many effects as possible for the statement(s) assigned. They should organize their response to the assignment in the following manner:

a. Write the initial statement in a circle in the center of the paper.

b. Identify three immediate consequences that result. Write these in circles around the initial statement circle. Connect these by lines with arrows.

c. Next, identify two secondary consequences that might result from each of these three immediate effects. Write them in circles too and connect them with arrows from the immediate consequences circles.

d. Then, continue the process with two tertiary consequences that might grow out of each secondary one.

3. Have pairs who worked on the same statement join to compare and discuss the effects they develop from the same statement.

4. Ask a spokesperson from each group to summarize their effects, including the differences between pairs.

  • Invite the whole group to suggest other possible causal relationships.
  • Discuss the process of tracing the effects of a statement.

a. Were there any surprising results?

b. Were all the results serious? Possible? Likely? Why or why not?

c. What did participants discover in doing this kind of consequential thinking? Could this method be applied to any aspects of their personal lives?

5. Debrief the activity drawing on these questions to guide discussion:

  • How are children affected by the condition described in the statement?
  • Does to condition described affect both males and females equally?
  • What effects might this condition have on our economy?
  • What are some of the short and long term effects of the condition described?
  • Who has or does not have these human rights in our society?
  • What do we learn from this activity about what happens when people enjoy certain human rights? When they are denied their rights?
  • How does knowing that this condition exists affect you?
  • If we know there are people in this community/nation/world who are hungry and undernourished but do nothing to help, can we call ourselves moral, caring human beings?

6. Research:

Use the Internet and library sources to find out if any of the imagined consequences are, in fact, true. (See Organizations Working for Economic and Social Justice, p. 106).

PART D: Family Budget Activity (45 minutes)

1. Pass out copies of Handout 2, Family Budget Sheet and explain that this is a monthly budget for a family of three (two parents and one child).

2. Read the following aloud from Handout 2, Family Budget Sheet: Imagine that this is your family. Like other families in similar situations, yours will have to make difficult decisions about how to spend your money. Every month you have to make choices about how to meet all your financial responsibilities, including feeding your children. Currently your budget contains no room for luxuries, such as entertainment or a car.

3. Go over the items on the list, stressing that the family lives from month to month with no savings to help them meet an emergency.

4. Divide participants into six small groups and assign each group a budget sheet and one of the three situations at the bottom of the sheet. Explain that the group must respond to the situation by reworking their family’s budget in the second column.

5. After the groups have revised their budgets, ask groups with the same situation to join together to compare their revised budgets. Do they differ? How and why?

6. Discuss this budget-making with the whole group, using some of these questions:

  • Is this budget realistic (e.g., is this a realistic amount for rent, food, clothing, utilities, and transportation in your community)?
  • Do people in your community actually live on so little money? Note: if possible, obtain information about income levels in your community.
  • What do people do when they cannot meet their expenses?
  • Is any help available for people who cannot meet their expenses?
  • How would living on a budget like this affect the family’s human rights? Which of those found in the UDHR? Explain.

Source: Adapted from: Dorosin, Geelan, Gordon, and Moore, Why is There Hunger in Our Community? (Oakland: Alameda County Community Food Bank, 1997).

PART E: Taking Action (Variable)

1. There are many ways in which participants can become directly involved in attacking the problem of hunger. A very partial list includes raising money for an organization, collecting food for a foodshelf, volunteering at the foodshelf, educating others via posters, newspaper articles, videos about conditions in your community, nation, or world, and writing to public officials (local and national) advocating for certain policies.

2. See the activity Community Survey and Action Plan, p. 42, for research questions to inform the development of an action plan.

3. See Appendices, p. 106, for a list of organizations working to address hunger and related problems.

Source: Written by David Shiman.