Delicious, Nutritious Peace: Building Peace through Food

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I don’t know about you, but I love food. Most people relish the opportunity to satiate hunger, to dine with friends, to share a holiday meal with family. A resource I believe can be incredibly effective in building peace is commonplace. In the United States of America, most of us are fortunate to have this resource waiting in our cabinet at home or in the cafeteria at school. Food, in abundance for the majority of this nation’s citizens, can be a driving force in building peace within communities.

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience” – James Beard

Food can be very informative about a region and a culture. In my online research into building peace through discussing food, I happened upon a lesson plan titled “What Do People Around the World Eat?” created by Learning to Give. This 45 minute lesson plan is designed for high school students and can be easily employed in history, nutrition, or economics classes. If I was facilitating this lesson in a history or nutrition class, I would add several components.

This lesson plan first involves an activity in which students stand by a poster with a continent’s name written on it, guessing which one has the healthiest food and eating habits. Next, a slide show “What the World Eats” created by Time will be presented. Pairs will discuss why people from around the world eat such diverse food in different quantities. A volunteer will take notes on the poster about students’ observations. Discussion will then shift to the differences in observations across continents.

If this was my own lesson plan, I’d add my component after the section described above. I would add discussion about the cultures of the students. Split into 5 small groups, students would discuss traditional foods and eating norms in their culture. They can also speak more about their family and their eating style. Do they eat out all the time? Do they share family meals often? Experiences with foods from other cultures can also be brought up. As they discussed, each group would prepare a simple dish from one continent being presented. Students will grow in community with each other and understanding of the culture, as well as get several snacks to enjoy while they enter into the next round of discussion. This would add approximately 45 minutes. The dishes will be chosen based on ease, short cooking time, and appeal. Food preparation is not be feasible in all situations, but a discussion of the students’ cultural experiences with food should be included.

According to the lesson plan, after this portion, discussion will shift again to comparison of attributes of the foods (cost per week per person, nutritional value, quantity per person, variety of food groups). The class will split into groups to discuss these attributes, soon presenting a class with a summary of their observation. If computers are available, a summary with research should be expected.

This lesson plan ends with two excellent questions: “How do these differences show that there is an injustice in food availability?  Whose responsibility is it to take action to address the injustice of food availability?” After a brief discussion of this, I’d expect students to write an essay or reflection about their thoughts on the matter.

This lesson plan reflects many of the pillars of peace education, particularly community building, engaging multiple intelligences, and skill building. Students build community with each other, gain understanding of one another’s cultures, and are introduced to the outside world’s experiences with food. They have the opportunity to discuss, to view a presentation, to walk around the class, to create food—engaging verbal, visual, and kinesthetic learners. Finally, this helps develop skills in analysis, comparison, and cooking.

This lesson plan would be great for high school teachers, particularly those that lead history or nutrition classes. This can be adapted for economics classes, for younger students, or for college-level courses. Informally, I could see this project fitting very well in Saturday community projects, with Girl and Boy Scout troops, in youth groups at churches, and in community enrichment classes.

For more information about building peace through making food, The PeaceMeal Project is a good place to start.

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