Addressing Food Insecurity

Engage students in a research project about access to healthy food in the United States, and plan actions for addressing food insecurity in your community.
Ages 8-14 / 60+
min Activity
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  • Conduct research on access to healthy food in their town/city, and how the number of grocery stores, convenience stores, and supercenters has changed over time
  • Examine what this data reveals about food insecurity in their community, and understand how different neighborhoods may experience varying access to healthy food
  • Brainstorm and plan actions for how they can address food insecurity, strengthen food environments, and promote the right to basic human health needs in their community

Supporting Research

When people identify shared problems and goals, research shows that this experience empowers them to put aside their differences and focus on what they share in common. Educators should encourage students to practice self-awareness and perspective taking to identify important issues relating to food insecurity in their communities, and collaboration to imagine themselves as being on the same team that is working together to foster everyone’s well-being.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners


  1. Begin the activity by asking students to conduct research on access to food in their local community and analyze how this data has changed over time.

    Educators in the United States might visit the online Food Environmental Atlas with their students and follow these steps:
    • Click on “Select Map to Display” on the top left of the map.
    • Click on “Store Availability,” then “Grocery,” and select the “Grocery Store, 2011” map.
    • Find the county in which your students live by zooming into the map and clicking on the county.
    • Change the year to “2016” and compare the data displayed in the 2011 map versus the 2016 map.
    • Repeat these steps by changing the map to “Access and Proximity to Grocery Stores,” and compare the data shown in the 2010 and 2015 maps.
    • Repeat these steps for other stores, such as convenience stores, supercenters, etc.  
  2. Then, engage students in a Think-Pair-Share exercise about their initial observations about how access to food in their community has changed over time. 

    Students should start by thinking about the questions individually before sharing their thoughts with a partner and, finally, with the rest of the class. 
  3. During the class discussion, you might ask:
    • What did you observe when we compared maps from different years?
    • What patterns do you notice?
    • How does this data make you feel? What does it make you think about?
    • What are some questions that you have?

    During the discussion, guide students to think about how the map data points to any food security issues in their community. For example, you might ask: 
    • What is the difference between food that you might find in a grocery store and food that you might find in a convenience store? Which type of store is more likely to have healthy food, like fresh fruits and vegetables?
    • How does a decrease in grocery stores, and an increase in convenience stores, affect a community’s ability to access healthy food?
    • Are there certain neighborhoods or people who are more likely to experience a lack of access to healthy foods? Why? What data did you observe about this?
    • What is the effect of food on our short- and long-term health? Why is access to healthy food a basic human need?
  4. Engage students in a brainstorming session about actions they might take to address food insecurity, strengthen food environments, and promote the right to basic human health needs in their community. For example, students might:
    • Write letters to local city council members about turning abandoned lots into community green spaces, or creating vertical gardens in communities with limited space
    • Create a social media campaign to raise awareness and encourage other community members to advocate for increased access to healthy food
    • Run a school-wide campaign to promote healthy food options
  5. Help students to narrow down their list of ideas and identify an action they want to take together. Remind them to listen to each other’s ideas with an open mind, include everyone’s perspective, and consider their unique strengths, resources, and skills. Then, develop a plan in which each student plays a different, but equally important role, in accomplishing their shared goal!

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.