A couple times a week I remind my kids that “there are starving children in the world, now eat your green beans.” In most American homes the message has become cliche. When I was a child in the 1970s my mother referred to the children in famine-plagued Cambodia to make her point. There have been plenty of other examples—from Ethiopia in the 80s to the more recent food shortages in North Korea or Sudan—for subsequent generations of moms to use in the hope of getting their children to clean their plate.
I’m pretty certain, however, that the larger lessons are almost always lost on children who would rather shove broccoli in their pockets than garner its nutritional benefits.
Now the United Nations World Food Program has unveiled an online tool for instilling lessons about global food resources and the problems wrought by shortages. The site includes lesson plans and activities, blogs, videos, interactive games, and other resources for introducing the topic of hunger into the curriculum.
The project aims to inform and educate children about the world’s resources and the unequal distribution of wealth and materials across the globe. It also hopes to motivate students to take action in their communities and come up with ideas that help solve the problem.
The program has had some success in the United Kingdom, where some 400,000 students participating in The Really Good School Dinner campaign raised money for the World Food Program, pledging to empty their plate in the name of raising awareness of hunger around the world.
It might be the only time moms ease the rule about laptops at the dinner table. I don’t know if it will convince children that those veggies are a blessing, but it might help them to think a little differently about the abundance of food before them.
(Photo: Sucheta Das/AP)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.