Activities for Module IV Apples, Beets, and Zinnias: Sustainable Horticulture
Activities for Section A: Fruits and Vegetables in the Food System
- Activity 1: What role do fruits and vegetables play in your diet?
- Activity 2: What grows here? What sells here?
- Activity 3: Menus and Maps – Where does your food come from?
Activity 1: What role do fruits and vegetables play in your diet?
Purpose: Students will learn about the contribution fruits and vegetables make to their diets and to those of others, and how consumption compares to dietary recommendations. Students will also begin to explore how fruits and vegetables move through the food system.
Advance preparation: Have materials available to make bar graphs. This could be as simple as a black- or white-board or a print-out of the bar graph worksheets or as sophisticated as a computer software program for graphing statistics.
Estimated time: 10 to 30 minutes
Ask each student to make a list of all the fruits and vegetables she or he has eaten in the last 24 hours.
Discuss the following questions and make class bar graphs of the responses to the first three questions:
1. Do most students eat an amount that falls into nutritional guidelines (around 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day for girls and 3½ cups of vegetables and 2½ cups of fruit per day for boys)?
(Fewer than a quarter of Americans eat recommended quantities of fruits and vegetables)
For more information, see:
5 A Day: Data and Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
My Plate resources from United States Department of Agriculture
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Sample recommendations for vegetable consumption
|*Data Adapted from USDA Dietary Guidelines, May 2005|
Optional extension: How much is a cup?
The old nutritional guidelines talked about “servings,” but people’s ideas about serving sizes were often very different from what USDA or label-makers had in mind. The new guidelines talk about cups, which still leaves some questions. Have students measure how many little carrots it takes to make up a cup. Then have students grate the cup of carrots. Do the grated carrots come to more or less than a cup? How much difference does it make whether the carrots are loosely or tightly packed? Next, cook the carrots with a little water (this can be done in a microwave or on a stove). Mash them and measure them again. How much volume do they occupy now?
2. What form do you eat fruit and vegetables in? Fresh? Frozen? Canned? Dried? Processed some other way? Raw? Cooked?
3. Where did your fruits and vegetables come from? In-state? In-region? Continental US? North or South America? Other continent? Don’t know?
4. Where did you get your fruits and vegetables? Grocery store? Home garden? Food service? Community garden? Farmers market? CSA? Farm stand or U-pick? Harvested from the wild? Gifts from friends and neighbors? Other sources?
5. Do your fruit and vegetable consumption patterns change seasonally? If so, how?
6. Not all vegetables are the same. The current nutritional guidelines stress the importance of dark green vegetables such as broccoli and kale and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes. What proportion of the vegetables students ate in the last 24 hours are regular potatoes? What proportion are dark green or orange?
7. Why do you think most Americans don’t eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables? Lack of knowledge? Flavor? Cost? Convenience? Habit?
See J. F. Guthrie et al. Understanding Economic and Behavioral Influences on Fruit and Vegetable Choices, USDA Amber Waves , April 2005.
8. How many students in the class fall into each of the categories? (Create a simple bar graph by filling in one box in the appropriate column in the tables for each student. Or you can tell your students to create the graphs on the computer or using graph paper.) You might show males and females in different colors to see if there is a gender difference in fruit and vegetable consumption.)
Activity 2: What grows here? What sells here?
Purpose: Students will learn about what fruits and vegetables can grow locally, how much produce is imported from other states and countries, and will begin to think about how produce moves through the food system.
Advance preparation: None for regular activity. Provide starting point for students to find farmers market managers for extended activity.
Estimated time: Part 1 will take 10 to 15 minutes. The extended activity will take 5 minutes in-class instruction and 15 minutes for reporting and discussion. The time needed to conduct the interviews will vary.
Have the class make a list on the board or a flip chart of all the fruits and vegetables students’ families grow for personal consumption in this state.
Next, have the class list fruits and vegetables available in local grocery stores that were grown in-state. If students don’t know whether the grocery store vegetables were grown in-state, have students call the produce managers and find out what (if any) fruits and vegetables they sell that are grown in-state.
Next, if there is a farmers’ market nearby, have the class make a list of all the locally grown produce for sale there. Students can visit the market in season (September is best time during the school year) or interview the market manager to get an idea of the variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables for sale.
Finally, put up the list of vegetables grown at one Wisconsin CSA farm (Harmony Valley) in one year and ask the class what other fruits and vegetables are grown in-state. Arugula, Asparagus, Basil, Beets, Broccoli, Broccoli Romanesco, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Carrots (red, orange, and yellow), Cauliflower, Celeriac, Cilantro, Cucumbers, Currants, Edamame (green soybeans), Eggplant, Fennel, Green Beans, Green Garlic, Green Onions, Horseradish, Herbs, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Leeks, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Purple Cauliflower, Radishes, Ramps (Wild leek), Raspberries, Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Salad Mix, Saute Mix, Spinach, Strawberries, Sunchokes, Sweet Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, Watermelon, Winter Radish (beauty heart and black Spanish), Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, delicata, festival, kabocha), Zucchini, other items grown in-state?
Ask the class to compare the lists. How are they different? Why are they different? What consequences do those differences have?
Extended activity: the well-traveled vegetable. Select a few fruits and vegetables that grow in-state. (Examples might include apples, potatoes, lettuce, cherries, green beans, etc.) Ask some students to interview supermarket produce managers and others to interview farmers market vendors to find out where these items were grown and how they have been handled between the farm and the point of retail sale. (This activity has most visual impact in June or September when farmers markets display a bounty. However, during the off-season students can still interview market managers and vendors, as well as grocery store produce managers, about the produce offerings during the local growing season.)
Students can use the sample questions to guide their interviews. Each group of students should report their findings back to the whole class.
Have students report their findings to the class. Ask students to compare the miles traveled, days from harvest, retail price, quality (appearance, variety, and flavor), and amount of handling (number of steps from field to eater) for each type of produce.
Activity 3: Menus and Maps—Where does your food come from?
Purpose: Students will begin to think about all the steps in the food system between the farm and their plates. Students will begin to realize the global nature of the food system. (Note: this is essentially the same activity as the Menus and Maps exercise in Module I. If students have recently done Module I you may prefer to skip this activity, or you may require more detailed and documented answers.)
Advance preparation: Assemble materials: paper plates and blank maps from Xpeditions Atlas at National Geographic
Estimated time: 20 minutes
- “Set the table” by placing a white paper plate and a piece of paper (as a placemat) at each student’s seat.
- Have the students draw all the fruits and vegetables (and herbs) they have eaten in the last 24 hours on their plate.
- Then, on their placemat, have the students “map” where they think the fruits and vegetables came from. To make things easier for the students you may have the “placemat” show a blank map of the US or the world.
For maps, visit:
Xpeditions Atlas at National Geographic
- Students should try to trace each fruit or vegetable as it moved through the food system from the farms where food was grown, through processing and distribution, to where the waste went. See examples
- Discuss what students found out from this exercise.
Possible discussion points:
- We get our food from a global market – much of it comes from very far away.
- We don’t usually know exactly where our food came from, or how it was grown or processed or transported.
- How does the time of year affect where fruits and vegetables come from or how they have been processed? What locally grown fruits and vegetables could you eat in Wisconsin in January? What processing and storage techniques would you need for each?
- We rely heavily on government regulation, business responsibility, and the judicial system to ensure the safety of our food, because consumers usually don’t have any knowledge of the specifics.
- The global food system relies a lot on energy from fossil fuels and produces a lot of waste.