Teaching Children About Hunger

Chicago teachers teach their classes about child hunger with Feeding America’s Hungry to Help lesson plan

June 14, 2017
by Colleen Callahan

In the U.S. today, 1 in 5 kids face hunger. That statistic is unacceptable, but in it, there is hope. After all, if 1 in 5 kids face hunger, that means that 6 in 7 kids can help.

To teach kids about hunger and inspire them to help their peers, Feeding America and Scholastic partnered to create the Hungry to Help Project. The Hungry to Help Project includes a curriculum designed to encourage empathy in kids for other children who might not have enough to eat, especially during the summer.

When Mary Hyland and Lisa Kennedy — second-grade teachers at The Frances Xavier Warde School in Chicago — learned about the curriculum, they were eager to introduce it in their classroom. Both said it fit extremely well with the lessons they were trying to teach their class.

“Empathy and service are values our school works hard to instill from day one,” said Mary. “They are so important, so we’re excited about any good opportunity to teach them and help students apply them outside the classroom.”

As part of the Hungry to Help lesson plan, Lisa and Mary helped the children visualize and understand how many kids were facing hunger in America. They then had kids draw their perfect meal on a plate and asked them to think about what would happen if they weren’t able to have this meal or others. This led to a discussion about how some children don’t have enough to eat and what that feels like. To encourage a better understanding of this, the teachers asked students to complete the sentence: “When I’m hungry, I can’t ______________.” Students wrote:

  • "When I'm hungry I can't focus"
  • "When I'm hungry I don't feel good"
  • "When I'm hungry I feel sleepy"
  • "When I'm hungry I am grumpy"

“This lesson really enabled us to go deeper with our kids about an issue we as a school already care about and work for — for example, we do a food drive during the holidays,” said Mary. “This was a great opportunity to explain why we as a school give back; we give back because there are children and families who are less fortunate and need our support.”

Mary helps her second graders brainstorm ways they can help fight hunger.

Once the kids began to understand how serious hunger is, Mary and Lisa ended the lesson by helping their students brainstorm ways that they can help people who don’t have enough to eat.

 “Towards the end lesson we showed a video about volunteering,” Lisa said. “During parts of the video, volunteers held up signs that said how many families they helped feed that day — volunteers were feeding 20, 30, 40 families. Our students definitely had a strong reaction to this. They were really impressed with how many people one day of volunteering can help — and this made them excited to get out there and give back. And the resources in an action plan that came with the lesson provided the kids with ways to do this.”

Lisa helping one of her students through the Hungry to Help lesson.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach this lesson because it allowed us to empower our students with the knowledge that they can make a difference and create change,” Lisa added. “It impacted them in a positive way, and we hope we can teach more lessons like this in the future.”

You can fight hunger with your own family this summer. Download the Hungry to Help action plan to get started today.