The Numbers Behind Hunger: Calorie Counting
Following are a series of activities in which students apply various math skills to better understand the problems of world hunger and what steps are being taken to reduce the number of people without enough to eat.
This activity makes use of basic math skills to learn more about the energy value of food. A link to the US Dept. of Agriculture “National Nutrient Database” is listed here – teachers may want to browse through the database first and determine the best way to present it to students: let them explore the entire database or make a condensed chart for students to reference.
This activity is #5 of 5 in this lesson.
Time Required: 1 hour (Add or subtract activities as desired to make a longer or shorter lesson, or each activity could be expanded to become its own lesson)
Students will understand different formats for analyzing and presenting statistical information.
Students will also gain proficiency in the following areas:
-Rate of change
-Graphing / Equation of a line
1) Have students research the calorie content of common foods and make an estimate for the average daily caloric intake of a person in the developed world (or have students calculate just for one meal).
a. Students can develop a spreadsheet in which they track the calories from protein, carbohydrates, and fats consumed in a typical day (either for themselves or an “average” person)
b. Students present their results using a pie chart graph.
c. Can a healthy diet be described solely in terms of calories?
d. How many calories are burned in various activities?
i. Working in an office or going to school
ii. Farming or working in a factory (strenuous physical exertion)
iii. Sitting around / watching TV (sedentary lifestyle)
e. Does a farmer in the developed world need more or fewer calories than an office worker in a developed country to maintain the same level of weight?
f. Have students look at the study on the TIG website and discuss the importance of exercise.
2) The World Food Program (WFP) provides emergency food aid to people forced to leave their homes (refugees or those who are internally displaced). How many calories a day does the WFP provide in these situations? (Note: The definition of a kilocalorie is 1000 calories but in common usage in the U.S. kilocalories are referred to as calories)
a. Do you think you could get by on that many calories?
3) The food aid provided by WFP each day may seem small compared to calories consumed in a developed country. Calculate how many pounds of food must be delivered each month to support 100,000 people (a relatively small number for an emergency situation) (1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs) How many tons of food is this?
a. If it takes 57 truckloads to deliver this much food, how many pounds of food can each truck carry?
Links with other subjects:
Hunger and nutrition could be addressed simultaneously in Social Studies and even Chemistry classes. One approach would be for students to select 3-5 countries and take a closer look at the question of hunger in those countries. Countries could be from different regions in the developing world, or a mix of developing and developed countries. Both the UN Stats website and the World Bank MDG site have detailed statistics by country. Social Studies students can look at the many interrelated factors that lead to hunger (failure of harvests, poor economic planning, poor infrastructure, conflict, displacement, etc.) Chemistry students could take a closer look at the makeup of foods and their nutrient value.
Other ideas to explore:
1) Does modern technology offer any solutions to the problem of world hunger. Are genetically-modified crops helpful or harmful in addressing world hunger? (link with Biology). Are there other technological advances in irrigation or even in the financial world (crop insurance) that offer potential solutions?
2) Students can work in teams to look at the situation in a particular country or region.
3) Students can think about and research what, if anything, they can do personally or as a class to address the problem of world hunger. Check out the Taking It Global Guide to Action for more on how students can take action.
Computers with internet access Microsoft Excel or other graph-creating software
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
No comments have been posted yet. You could be first!
Please login to post a comment.