3 Activities to Teach Kids About Hunger
Most kids could probably tell you what the word “hunger” means. After all, I must hear our 5 year old say “Mom, I’m hungry” at least 15 times a day!
But how can we help them understand why some children, day after day, do not have enough to eat? What can parents and educators do to nurture kids’ empathy and fuel their desire for fairness?
In this post, I share 3 activities for kids ages 3 – 12. These resource will help them understand what the causes of hunger are as well as its far-reaching effects.
To help the kids in your life go deeper in their understanding of this subject, and to help them take action, I have another resource for you. Sign up for our free challenge, Fight Hunger Kid Activist Challenge.
Make Survival Biscuits (for children ages 3 – 12)
In situations of famine, emergency food assistance can mean the difference between life and death. Survival biscuits, also called high energy biscuits, can be used in the first days of a food emergency when cooking facilities aren’t available. They are fortified with vitamins and minerals and a lot of protein.
You can mimic the taste of survival biscuits with this recipe, provided by the hunger assistance organization Church World Service.
Survival Biscuit Recipe
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (can substitute 1/3 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of milk)
1 cup wheat flour or soy flour
1/4 cup margarine or shortening
1/4 cup water
Scatter a small amount of cornmeal on a 9 inch x 12 inch cookie sheet. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and pat it out onto your prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. After they have cooled, cut them into wafers, about 2 inches x 2.5 inches.
After you’ve tried the biscuits, ask your children what they think it would be like to only have these biscuits to eat for several days. How do you think your body would feel?
Depending on your child’s age, you can also talk about two types of hunger people face: starvation and malnutrition. These survival biscuits are used in situations of famine, where people are at risk of death by starving.
According to the World Food Programme, one in nine people do not get enough to eat each day.
A much larger number of people, one in three, are malnourished. This means that they may technically be getting enough calories to eat. However, the food they eat lacks the vitamins and minerals that allows their bodies to function well. For example, malnourished children in Guatemala may only eat corn tortillas and salt because it’s the only food that’s affordable.
Watch a video about the difference that poverty and hunger makes (for children ages 6 – 12)
Last year, UNICEF started a campaign named #FightUnfair. It focuses on the right of every child to get a fair start in life. They have a series of videos that show the effects of poverty, on children themselves, and on those of us who are not poor as well. (Before showing other videos to your child, be sure to preview them first. I think the video below is appropriate for elementary aged children.)
This short video will likely provide you with a lot of discussion with your children. Two nine year old children, Christina and Nindy, live in neighboring provinces of Indonesia. Yet their lives are drastically different.
After watching the video, ask your kids:
- What differences did they notice between Christina and Nindy’s days? (If they don’t mention food, ask them specifically about what the girls ate.
- Pick out a couple of specific things that Nindy and Christina did during the day. Ask your kids how they think each girl was feeling at that time.
- Do you think this is fair? What things does every kid need to have a fair start in life?
Use the Play SPENT simulation to understand hunger and poverty in the United States (for children ages 10+)
Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina has designed an online simulation about poverty and hunger called SPENT that is incredibly eye-opening. Although it’s intended for adults, if you do the simulation with you tween or teen, they should be able to make most of the decisions themselves.
The choices that have to be made are emotionally difficult and show the daily mental and emotional strain of poverty. Participants will also quickly see why so many people end up needing help from food banks.
As you play with your child, if they ask for advice, try to neutrally explain what might happen in each situation. Let them make the actual choices though; they’ll learn more that way.
After completing the simulation, ask your kids:
- What surprised you about the effects of different choices that they made?
- How did you feel as you had to make so many decisions? What do you think it would feel like to have to make these decisions day after day in real life?How might kids feel when their parents have to make these kinds of choices?
- What changes do you think we could make as communities or as a nation to make life for fair for everyone?
Join us for the Ending Hunger: a 5 Day Activist Blueprint for Kids
Hunger, around the globe and here at home, is a problem that has long troubled my heart and my mind. When I was in college, it was my anti-hunger activism that helped me realize I had a call to social justice ministry.
So as a Mom, it’s incredibly important to me to make sure our 5 year old knows about hunger. I want him to see the incredible unfairness of it in a world of plenty. Most of all, I want him to know that he can do something about it.
If you’ve read this far, you probably feel the same way about what you want the kids in your life to understand.
I hope you’ll join us in our free Fight Hunger Kid Activist Challenge. My goal is to help you raise big-hearted kids who want to change the world.
During each of the 5 days, you’ll receive a learning or action step to do with your child. Each action will take no more than 20 minutes.
By the end of the 5 days, you and the kids in your life will have experienced the power of kid activism. They’ll know why charity by itself is not enough to end hunger, and they’ll understand the role each of us has to play in bringing about justice.
Sign up or find out more about the Ending Hunger challenge here.