Magazine Feature

Toolkit for “Serving Up Food Justice at School”

This toolkit accompanies the article “Serving Up Justice at School,” and provides a classroom activity that engages students in learning about the food in their daily lives through an interdisciplinary social-action project.

This social-action project will help your students learn about the food in their daily lives. You can follow all of these steps or pick and choose based on the time and resources available. Many of these activities could be part of an interdisciplinary lesson involving language arts, social studies, health or life science, and art classes.


Step 1: Interview the school’s nutrition staff. (Language Arts, Health/Life Science)

Your school’s nutrition staff are the people who plan, order and prepare the meals served in the school cafeteria. They often have to balance a number of priorities or concerns in their efforts to prepare healthy meals, such as cost, students’ preferences, availability of fresh produce, and limitations in space or equipment for cooking. Interviewing one of the nutrition staff is a great place to start a social-action and research project about the food provided in your school.

Possible Interview Questions:

  • What are your main responsibilities here at the school?
  • What do you like most about your role/job?
  • What is the biggest challenge you face in your role/job?
  • Do you face any challenges in providing healthy meals with fresh fruits and vegetables?
  • What is the most popular food item served at the cafeteria?


Step 2: Delve deeper by researching the food provided at your school. (Social Studies/Health/Life Science)

Have students do research into the most popular food item sold at the school cafeteria. You could have students research the nutritional value of the food item or study its social context, or both. Below are some guiding questions for each research project.

Nutritional Analysis:

  • How does this food fit into the food pyramid and/or recommended daily amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals?
  • What are the overall health benefits of this food?
  • Are there any health risks associated with eating this food in large amounts or frequently?
  • If so, are there other options that are similar to this food but have better health outcomes?

Social Analysis:

  • Where is this food grown or produced? Who grows or produces this food? Do you see any similarities in the background of people who are employed to grow, pick, package or produce this food?
  • What processes are used to transport this food to stores or cafeterias?
  • What is the cost to produce or grow this food in terms of land, labor and transport?
  • Do you know any alternative ways of growing or producing this food?


Step 3: Create a student-led educational campaign. (Social Studies/Language Arts/Art)

After compiling the research that students conducted on the nutritional and/or social effects of the most popular food item in the school cafeteria, have your students create an educational campaign for their peers. Below are some ideas to help organize the students’ campaign.

If, during their research, students discovered that the popular food item is a positive choice in terms of its nutritional or social consequences, have them research and think about:

  • What information do they want to share with their peers about the popular food item?
  • What are some ways to promote similar food items?
  • What slogans or catchy phrases could be used to help their peers continue to make positive decisions?
  • In what ways could they present their message or campaign visually?
  • What do they need to do to get approval from the school leadership to share their educational materials (fliers, posters, etc.)?

If, during their research, students discovered that the popular food item has negative health and/or social consequences, have them research and think about:

  • What alternative foods would be a better choice for themselves and their peers?
  • What are some ways to influence their peers to make better decisions?
  • What slogans could be used to persuade their peers?
    • In what ways could they present their message or campaign visually?
    • What kind of advocacy campaign could they use to lobby school decision makers to provide healthier foods to all schools in their district?
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