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Curriculum Level: 6-8

By Alissa M. McElreath from Dillard Drive Magnet Middle School

OVERVIEW OF LESSON: After researching the Global Food Security Index, students will select a global community and make an argument for which of Michael Pollan’s four food chains (Industrial, Industrial-Organic, Local and Sustainable, Hunter-Gatherer) would best address issues of food insecurity in that local community. Students will factor in the impacts of climate change and challenges connected to other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – for example, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation or SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Students will work in groups of three or four, and they will be provided with a choice board.

Timeline: This is designed as a compressed unit and can be lengthened or shortened depending on timing, but this lesson was implemented over a three-week period and culminated with students presenting their projects.

Week 1 Building a Foundation: The teacher prepares students for research through initial engagement in food security issues and challenges, vocabulary, and connection between food security data and SDGs.

Week 2 Investigating the World: After being introduced to the project, students take a deeper dive into the data and research. Students form research groups and student expert groups. Students will begin project work.

Week 3 Communicating Ideas: Students present their projects


SUBJECT: English Language Arts (ELA)


NC English Language Arts Standards

W.8.5:  Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration

W.8.5:  Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration

RI.8.1: Cite textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text

RI.8.7: Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to present a particular topic or idea

SL.8.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one on one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

SL.8.2: Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats and evaluate the motives behind its presentation.


  • What are factors, besides taste, that may impact what we decide to eat? 
  • How can I generate research questions for further exploration? 
  • How can I determine which SDGs directly impact a community’s food stability?

LESSON OBJECTIVES: By the end of this unit, students will be able to formulate research questions that will drive additional exploration, form connections across areas of research and data, and work collaboratively to problem-solve challenges facing food security in global communities.


Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Young Reader’s Edition)

Global Communities: trition/

World Food Programme: 

UN Academic Impact article:


This lesson plan is designed to be taught in conjunction with Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. If the book is not used alongside the lesson plan, teachers can provide students with summaries of the four food chains that are the focus of Pollan’s book. Free PDF copies of the book can be found online.

Week 1

On Day 1 of Week 1, the teacher will use the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) activity slide deck to help students understand the concept of food security. The lesson will begin with a think, pair, share activity about the phrase “food security.” Once discussion has been completed, show students the GFSI website. Have students offer their guesses for which country ranks #1 in food security, and which ranks last (Syria). Click on the #1 country (in this case, Finland), and show students the categories: prevalence of undernourishment, percentage of children stunted, percentage of children underweight, prevalence of obesity, and human development index. Have students discuss what connection these factors have to do with food security. Click through the United States and Syria.

Students will then independently complete the questions provided with the GFSI activity. By the end of the activity, students should have chosen and ranked three countries they are interested in potentially exploring for their project.

Week 2

The teacher will provide students with copies of the SDGs. In small groups, instruct students to click through the GFSI website to examine data from one country they chose from their initial list. Students will then select SDGs they think may be connected to food security issues in that global community. For example, how has agriculture been impacted by air, soil, and water pollution and impacts on biodiversity, and how might SDG 15: Life on Land, address these challenges?

Once students have a working list of 2-3 SDGS, they can proceed with the choice board activity (Project Choice Board and Rubric handout) and formulate a strategy for presenting their arguments.

Each group will pick one of the following to create their presentation. Each project should include:

  • Geographic, historical, and cultural data that is relevant to your global communities’ food culture, food insecurity issues, and poverty levels.
  • Information identifying which SDGs are impacted, or are impacting, food insecurity in the students’ chosen global community. For example, if sustainability of food sources is a problem (as is the case in Indonesia) what is causing this? Are the impacts connected to climate change? Can you connect your project to SDG 12, 13, and 14 or another SDG?
  • Information on the food chain you have chosen to address food insecurity in your global community. This section must contain specific evidence from the section in Pollan’s book that corresponds to your project!
  • Information on how the selection of this food change will address the challenges your community faces, including specific examples from your group’s research.

Each group member will be responsible for creating one of the above components for their group’s project. The method you use will depend on your group’s decision, and you may combine more than one method if you choose to do so.

Week 3 

Students will communicate what they have learned by presenting their projects to the class. 

ASSESSMENTS: GFSI activity questions. Culminating project and presentations to be assessed using supplied rubric (available on Project Choice Board and Rubric handout).

LEARNING EXTENSION: As a learning extension, students will research actions already in place as part of the SDGs in that community or geographic region. Have they been successful? Why or why not? How would your group’s arguments for the food chain that would best meet your global communities’ needs address failures or successes?


Short video featuring Michael Pollan describing food chains:

Global Food Security Index (GFSI) activity slide deck


Our World in Data:

Project Choice Board and Rubric: Project Choice Board and Rubric handout 

Complete set of lesson handouts and activities


Economist Impact. (2022). Global Food Security Index 

Global Communities. (2023). Food Security and Nutrition. trition/

Hasell, J. Roser M.,  Ortiz-Ospina E & Arriagada, P. (2022). Poverty.  OurWorldInData.. 

Pollan, M. (2015). The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Rocky Pond Books, reprint edition.

UN Academic Impact (n.d.) The Intimate Relationship between Food Security and Land.

Nourish Life. (2012). Michael Pollan: Food Chain (Video]. YouTube.

World Food Programme. (2023). WFP and the Sustainable Development Goals.