Student View

Lesson Plan: Food Fight!

A step-by-step guide to teaching this article in your classroom

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

Students will identify arguments for and against recent updates to the school lunch nutrition rules.

KEY STANDARDS

RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, RI.6-8.5, RI.6-8.7, SL.6-8.1, SL.6-8.2, SL.6-8.4, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.4, WHST.6-8.8

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS

• Incorporate this article into a lesson on the powers and responsibilities of the federal government.
• Include this piece in a unit about the effects of the Great Depression and World Wars.
• Use this article to get students thinking about the role of government in education and health.
• Pair this piece with a discussion on the obesity epidemic in the United States.

Before Reading

1. STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
(5 MINUTES)

Ask: Which foods served by our cafeteria are your favorites? Which are your least favorites? Why might the U.S. government care what foods students eat at school?

2. BUILD BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE
(5 MINUTES)

Tell students that the federal government is in charge of the school lunch program and that it sets nationwide nutrition standards for school meals. That means the meals that students are served across the country are all roughly the same in terms of calories, fat, and sodium.

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Read & Analyze

3. INDEPENDENT READING
(20 MINUTES)

Have students read the article on their own, writing down any comments or questions.

4. CLOSE-READING QUESTIONS
(20 MINUTES)

Have students write their answers to each question, or use these prompts to guide a discussion.

• COMPARE AND CONTRAST: How are the lunches pictured at the top of the article similar? How are they different?
(Possible answers include: Similarities: Both lunches have a drink, entree, and sides. Both lunches have a drink that might be high in sugar. Differences: The 1980s lunch is made up of mostly prepackaged foods. It has pudding for dessert. The 2019 lunch looks fresher. It has vegetables, a turkey wrap, and applesauce. It comes with low-fat ranch dressing and no dessert.)

• CAUSE AND EFFECT: What motivated Congress to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010? How did the law change school nutrition guidelines?
(Health experts warned lawmakers about the growing obesity problem in the United States, prompting them to act. The law required more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and limited sodium.)

• DETERMINING MAIN IDEA: Why did the Department of Agriculture recently change some of the nutrition requirements for school lunch menus?
(Officials want to appeal more to students’ taste buds so kids will throw away less food. Officials also want to increase milk consumption among students.)

• CLOSE READING: What specific examples illustrate the idea that students throw away cafeteria food?
(Studies as far back as the 1970s show that kids trash more than 30 percent of their school lunches. Students in one school district in South Dakota throw away 65 percent of their fruits and vegetables.)

• DRAW CONCLUSIONS: How might students’ locations affect what they eat, such as in the lunches from Japan, Peru, and Russia pictured in the sidebar?
(Possible answers include: Their location may determine what types of food are readily accessible—such as fish in Japan, which is an island nation. Cost and availability may also affect menu variety and portion sizes. Local traditions may play a role, such as in Japan, where rice is a staple in many people’s diets.)

• ANALYZING A GRAPH: How do the bar graph and circle graphs contribute to the story?
(The bar graph shows how the number of meals the national lunch program serves each year has changed over time. The circle graphs show how many school meals were given for free or for a reduced price to students in need in 1980 and in 2018.)

Extend & Assess

5. FEATURED SKILL: ARGUMENT WRITING 
Ask students: Are the new nutritional standards for school lunches a good idea? Why? Have students research and organize an argument essay on that topic using the skills sheet Argument Writing: Pick a Side.

6. ASSESS COMPREHENSION
Find out how well kids understood the article by assigning the skills sheet Know the News— Food Fight!

7. CREATE A CHRONOLOGY
Have students plot a timeline of the history of school lunches in the U.S. based on the sidebar. Encourage students to research more dates to include using fns.usda.gov/nslp/history and other trustworthy sites.

8. CONDUCT RESEARCH: EXECUTIVE BRANCH
Tell students that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is one of 15 departments in the executive branch of the federal government. Assign each student a department to research using reliable sources such as usa.gov/executive-departments. Ask: What does your department do? Why is it important? How does it affect Americans’ daily lives? Students should write a brief essay explaining their findings, including who the department’s current secretary is as well as the department’s purpose and responsibilities.

DIFFERENTIATING

Lower Level Preview the definitions for challenging terms including consumption, diverted, eligible, and sodium.

Higher Level Have students interview the principal, nutrition director, or cafeteria staff about changes to your school’s lunches and students’ eating habits over time. Then have them report their findings to the class.

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PHOTO CREDITS TK