Grades 6-8
Social Studies
Grades 3-5

Taking Collaborative Action on Food Insecurity

Engage students in a research project about access to healthy food in the United States, and plan actions for addressing food insecurity in your community.

Activity Partner
Total time estimate:
Activity Objectives
  • Students will conduct research on access to healthy food in their town/city, and how the number of grocery stores, convenience stores, and supercenters has changed over time
  • By examining what this data reveals about food insecurity in their community, students will understand how different neighborhoods may experience varying access to healthy food
  • Then, students will brainstorm and plan actions for how they can address food insecurity, strengthen food environments, and promote the right to basic human health needs in their community

This activity supports the development of the following
social-emotional skills: relationship skills, responsible decision-making, self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness.


This activity focuses on challenges around food security experienced by different communities in the United States. Food security is the physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. To start the activity, ask students to conduct research on access to food in their local community and analyze how this data has changed over time.

Educators in the United States might visit the online Food Environmental Atlas with their students and follow these steps:

  1. Click on “Select Map to Display” on the top left of the map
  2. Click on “Store Availability,” then “Grocery,” and select the “Grocery Store, 2011” map
  3. Find the county in which your students live by zooming into the map and clicking on the county  
  4. Change the year to “2016” and compare the data displayed in the 2011 map versus the 2016 map
  5. Repeat these steps by changing the map to “Access and Proximity to Grocery Stores,” and compare the data shown in the 2010 and 2015 maps
  6. Repeat these steps for other stores, such as convenience stores, supercenters, etc.  

Then, engage students in a think-pair-share discussion about their initial observations about how access to food in their community has changed over time. Students should start by thinking about the questions individually before sharing their thoughts with a partner and, finally, with the rest of the class. You might ask:

  • What did you observe when we compared maps from different years?
  • What patterns do you notice?
  • How does this data make you feel? What does it make you think about?
  • What are some questions that you have?

During your class discussion, guide students to think about how the map data points to any food security issues in their community. You might ask:

  • What is the difference between food that you might find in a grocery store and food that you might find in a convenience store? Which type of store is more likely to have healthy food, like fresh fruits and vegetables?
  • How does a decrease in grocery stores, and an increase in convenience stores, affect a community’s ability to access healthy food?
  • Are there certain neighborhoods or people who are more likely to experience a lack of access to healthy foods? Why? What data did you observe about this?
  • What is the effect of food on our short- and long-term health? Why is access to healthy food a basic human need?

Engage students in a brainstorming session about actions they might take to address food insecurity, strengthen food environments, and promote the right to basic human health needs in their community. For example, students might:

  • Write letters to local city council members about turning abandoned lots into community green spaces, or creating vertical gardens in communities with limited space
  • Create a social media campaign to raise awareness and encourage other community members to advocate for increased access to healthy food
  • Run a school-wide campaign to promote healthy food options

Help students to narrow down their list of ideas and identify an action they want to take together. Remind them to listen to each other’s ideas with an open mind, include everyone’s perspective, and consider their unique strengths, resources, and skills. Then, develop a plan in which each student plays a different, but equally important role, in accomplishing their shared goal!


Facilitate a live virtual exchange with your Empatico partner class and invite students to share their thoughts and ideas. For example, they might discuss:

  • Observations about access to healthy food in their community, and what opportunities and challenges they identified
  • Actions that their community is already taking to address food security issues
  • Ideas for how their class wants to take action to promote food security and/or strengthen the food environment in their community

Encourage students to find similarities and differences between their communities, and learn from each other’s ideas and experiences. You might even challenge them to identify an action that they can take together!

This activity was developed in partnership with the University of California, Irvine Science Project.

Did you finish this activity? We'd love your input.