Investigative Question

How does food get to my plate?

Standard 2.4 develops students’ economic literacy and appreciation of the many people who work to supply the products they use. Emphasis in this unit is given to those who supply food: people who grow and harvest crops such as wheat, vegetables, and fruit; workers who supply dairy products such as milk, butter, and cheese; and processors and distributors who move the food from farm to market. Throughout this study, students learn basic economic concepts of human wants, scarcity, and choice; the importance of specialization in work today. In addition, students should consider the interdependence of consumers, producers, processors, and distributors in bringing food to market. Students also develop an understanding of their roles as consumers in a complex economy.
This inquiry set uses visuals to help students understand the process of how fruits and vegetables get from the fields to our local markets. The images emphasize how workers participate in this process.The first agriculture production in what is now California began with the mission system. Over time, agriculture became a major part of the California economy, and fruits and vegetables grown in California were shipped across the United States. Agriculture is important to the California economy and many people work to prepare the land, farm, transport, process, and sell these crops. Various kindsof fruit grow in orchards throughout southern California and the Central Valley. Oranges were once one of California’s major crops and were the first crops in the Los Angeles area. Today, California is known for grapes, olives, oranges, strawberries, lettuce, artichokes, garlic and so many other fruits and vegetables. These crops have been harvested by laborers from many ethnic backgrounds, both men and women. Often, farm labor is the first job for new immigrants to the United States.This inquiry set asksstudents to collect evidence from the images, connect the evidence between sources, and analyze how those pieces of evidence connect to the question: how does food –and in particular oranges (as illustrated by the primary sources in this set) –get to myplate? Taken together, the various sources help students explore the process by which fruits and vegetables move from the fields to our plates. One teaching strategy is to provide students with the images and have the students arrange them on a timeline from the beginning of the harvest to the marketplace so that students engage with the process of cultivation to consumption of crops. Once students complete the visual analysis, teachers may wish to have students become specialists on one or more of the images, and orally present to the class the step of production that they studied. Students can work in groups to present the sequence of crops getting to one’s plate.
Teacher Directions: As an introduction to this lesson, teachers may want to begin by showing students a picture of an orange or orange juice at a store. Ask the students: how did the orange or orange juice get to the market for me to buy? Ask the students to look at the photos and put the pictures in order from what shows the first step to the last step in getting the oranges to the table. Ask students to collaborate and come up with the best prediction. This will build interest for learning more about the photos. For each image have students complete the visual analysis chart below. To help them complete the chart, direct students to do the following: 1) Write down the number of the source. 2) Identify two details you notice in the source. 3) Write down who is doing the work. 4) Speculate about what the evidence tells about the process of oranges moving from the fields to our plates. 5) Explain how the image is part of the process in getting food to our plates. After students complete the visual analysis chart, you can separate students into groups to become specialists on one or more of the images. Students can be divided evenly into six groups, prepare oral presentations about the steps of production that they studied. The following directions can be provided to students as they work in groups and prepare presentations: 1) Tell students that their group will become a specialist on one of the images 2) Have students begin by sharing their visual analysis notes with one another. Direct the students to modify their own notes page by adding additional details that they might discover from sharing information with their group members. 3) Once modifications have been made, tell the group to develop a brief presentation in which each member of the group shares one detail from the chart. For example, student A will share two details about the source, student B shares who is doing the work, etc. Once the individual presentations have been developed, students can work across groups to prepare for the sequencing of the presentations. As a larger class group, students should ensure that the correct order of crops getting to one’s plate is shared.
Teachers should be mindful that students and their families come from a variety of socioeconomic, cultural, religious, ability, nationality, gender, and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Their neighborhoods and hometowns might share common cultural, religious, social, or architectural aspects from the past communities shown in this exercise. This standard will aid in helping to provide a more inclusive interpretation of what other communities might look like, or function, while also helping students analyze how and why nations experience change over time.