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How and Why Is Healthy Food Not Accessible to Everyone?



Even in wealthy countries like Canada food insecurity is increasing due to a growing disparity between income and the cost of living.  Inadequate access to healthy nutrition exacerbates social problems such as high demands on health care systems and children struggling to learn.  This lesson explores food insecurity and the concept of "food deserts" through a student investigation of the causes and consequences of this issue while considering strategies to improve the availability of fresh, local food.  As pupils participate in the solutions-based learning experience they will achieve the following outcomes:

  • Identify healthy and unhealthy food options in their neighborhood
  • Examine the link between food waste and food insecurity
  • Explore how food access can be limited by socioeconomic and geographical status
  • Brainstorm actions to improve food security in their community

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Critical thinking
  • Social awareness
  • Reflection
  • Information gathering


  • Students explore food insecurity from several social and environmental perspectives
  • Encourages students to help their community through citzenship
  • Includes all lesson support materials


  • Does not include sufficient information to help students execute their action idea
  • Does not include any assessment tools

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This lesson supports Grade 6-8 Health and Social Studies curricula that focus on nutrition and food availability, poverty effects, sustainable communities and civic engagement.  Students learn that although social issues such as food access are complex, there are many community-based solutions that can help support residents in improving their quality of life.  The resource also examines environmental issues such as food waste, local food and climate change impacts on agriculture.

In the final "Inspire" activity learners consider how action initiatives such as community gardens could help reduce food insecurity locally.  The class votes to identify the best strategy and are encouraged to develop their idea into an action project.  Planning and implementing this undertaking could become a school wide program that involves all students and teachers in simple activities such as assisting with the school breakfast program, planting a school vegetable garden or a food drive to support the local food bank.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

Citizenship (1)

  • Community-Building and Participation

Food & Agriculture (1)

  • Food Security

Human Health & Environment (2)

  • Hunger and Malnutrition
  • Quality of Life

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

"Watch and Respond" tasks provide a questioning and discovery process where students explore food insecurity from a global and community perspective.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Learners will understand that world food supplies are plentiful but that it is poverty and inequitable distribution that impact food security.  Access issues such as an inability to travel to large grocery stores outside of the community also limit food choices.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The lesson ensures that students understand that the types of food that are available are just as important as abundance.  Hunger and malnutrition arise from limited food choices and both contribute to diet related illness.  

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

Learners consider and develop ideas for community based projects that could improve the availability of fresh, local food.  

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Students are able to consider their role as community citizens and propose ideas for taking action within their neighborhood.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Very Good

This resource teaches students how poverty can severely limit life quality and that those most affected are often from marginalized communities.  Pupils also learn how social empowerment through volunteer support can affect positive change.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

The lesson does not contain any direct experiences with the natural world but the "Farming in the Bronx" video clip demonstrates the benefits of green spaces in urban environments.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

Students consider the impact of food insecurity within their own community and analyze potential local solutions.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Pupils describe how food supplies could be disrupted by climate change and associated severe weather events, while defining how sustainable choices like reducing food waste can benefit the future of our planet.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The instructional approach uses self-expression as the basis for learning, thus encouraging peer dialogue and a critical examination of the content.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The resource contains information that supports Health outcomes related to nutrition.  Social Studies learning regarding poverty, inequality, civic engagement and world issues are all reinforced by this lesson.  Students also practice communication skills through activities such as "Turn and Talk" and "Watch and Discuss".

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The teacher's role is to support, rather than direct student discussions and reflection which provides many opportunities for self-discovery and active involvement in the learning process.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The "Teaching Tips" section of the resource includes some differentiation suggestions such as assigning level appropriate research resources.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

An authentic problem forms the basis of the lesson and the inquiry process engages students in a meaningful-problem solving task that is applicable and relevant to current world issues.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Students actively engage with each other through peer discussions and problem solving.  The whole class discussions provide a forum for sharing new learning and expressing opinions.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

There are no specific assessment strategies but there are several opportunities for formative assessment as the teacher questions students about their ideas.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

The class does develop ideas for a local action project that could actively involve peers, parents and community members in helping to build community sustainability.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

Articles and videos present a number of case studies to support the lesson.  Canada has seen an increase in the use of food banks and food access and availability have been impacted globally by catastrophic weather events and conflict.  Students will recognize that the universal human right to adequate nutrition can be addressed through sustainable food production and equitable distribution.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

Active exploration and research ensure that students are able to define their own ideas and feelings about food insecurity.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.