Monday, October 17, 2011

LiveBlogging: Povery Unit -- Food Costs

Food prices have more than doubled in the past few years. As  more people around the world get enough money to buy food (a good thing!), food costs rise due to increased demand (bad thing).  The recent American push toward ethanol fuel derived from corn or soybeans have skyrocketed the price of staple items.  Truth is, much of the world is malnourished or undernourished even though actual cases of starvation have gone down.

Students took time this morning to read this article from USNWR:
More Americans in Poverty than Ever

Rising costs of fuel and food + the economic downturn worldwide have squeezed out many jobs in the middle layers of the economy, leaving only poor-paying service jobs at the bottom and high-paying professional jobs at the top (which require tens of thousands of dollars' worth of education to attain). But huge swaths of jobs have disappeared from management, white collar careers that require little education or training, and blue collar manual labor.

This morning, we divided the students into "families" representing a variety of economic situations and family relationships. Some families have only a single parent; others are trying to support both kids and grandma.  The family groups worked through a list of common grocery staples to estimate what they cost.

Next, we walked up the road to our local BiLo store. The students had two tasks:
1. Write down the real cost of the foods on your list.  Surprise! Surprise! ....more expensive than they thought.
2. Buy your own lunch.  You can pool all your family's money together, but no individual is allowed to spend or donate more than $3.

It was a great experience  for the kids! Many of them used checkout counters for the first time on their own, juggling unit prices and total prices in a real-world test of arithmetic skills. The patient checkout clerk smiled wanly and said, "Y'all are BRAVE for doing this!"   Everybody managed to feed their families pretty well, though our next task (after lunch/recess) will be to analyze the actual nutritional value of the food they were able to purchase.

Some BiLo shots of our "families" shopping:

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