New lesson plans from Kids Can Make a Difference (KIDS) aim to help students around the world understand the root causes of hunger. The program, called Hunger Now, encourages young people to take action towards eliminating food insecurity in their communities.
KIDS is a program of the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN), the world’s largest global nonprofit global network. Larry and Jane Levine founded KIDS in 1994 to teach middle school students in Maine about constructive responses to famine and hunger.
Today KIDS and iEARN partner to publish teacher guides – resources for educators to teach students about poverty and inequality – that have since reached thousands of schools worldwide.
KIDS and iEARN are now adding 20 new lesson plans to the existing teacher guides in an effort to reflect the world’s current circumstances. Mary Brownell, Project Facilitator for Hunger Now, tells Food Tank that the lesson plans are “trying to look at how prevalent hunger is and how swept under the rug it can be.”
Hunger Now’s new lesson plans aim to foster collaboration between educators around the world teaching about hunger, especially in light of COVID-19’s restrictions on educational practices. Using iEARN’s project platform, teachers can connect while building a pedagogical approach that helps their students understand hunger’s pervasiveness.
Brownell explains that the Hunger Now lesson plans have historically been dedicated to finding action-oriented approaches to teaching children about hunger. “This isn’t a happy project,” Brownell tells Food Tank. “It’s tender and delicate and compassionate and strong.”
Classrooms using Hunger Now lesson plans have organized food drives, raised money for food banks and local organizations in their communities, and hosted events aimed to educate each other about hunger.
The need for a comprehensive curriculum tackling hunger’s root causes is more important now than ever, Brownell explains. There are currently 690 million chronically food-insecure people around the globe, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. At least 37 million of these people are in the United States, according to Feeding America. And COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities with high rates of poverty and hunger, according to the World Bank.
But Brownell tells Food Tank that COVID-19 also negatively impacted teaching efforts around these issues. “Given the fact that schools closed, discussions shared among students and teachers on the [iEARN] project forum were minimal… There couldn’t be any collaborative efforts because no one was in school,” she says.
Although grade schools are not uniformly reopening, Brownell hopes that teachers will bring Hunger Now lessons into their classrooms, whether virtual or in-person. “We have hunger here in America,” Brownell tells Food Tank. “It’s real, and it might look different than in other countries, but it is real.”
Photo courtesy of Mary Brownell