Global Food Cultures & Their Origin Around The World

What Food Do They Eat? Lesson Plan Grades 1-3


Children will learn about the global food cultures around the world that families like to eat. They’ll also discuss using local resources, in addition to talking about where and why foods grow the way they do. Children will make their own versions of a recipe they choose.

Materials and Preparation

  • Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter J.Thornton. First Avenue Editions TM; Reprint edition, 1991.
  • Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter J.Thornton. First Avenue Editions TM,1995
  • Everybody Serves Soup by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter J.Thornton. First Avenue Editions TM; Reprint edition, 2004.
  • Everybody Brings Noodles by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter J.Thornton. First Avenue Editions TM; Reprint edition, 2005.
  • World Happy Map, preferably with the Where Food Grows sticker pack
  • Sticky notes
  • Pens, pencils, or other writing tools
  • Pre-printed articles or books about where chocolate and vanilla beans are grown. NOTE: Most cocoa beans are found in countries in West Africa – Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Most Vanilla beans are found in Madagascar, Mexico, and Tahiti.

Sum It Up, Option A Materials

  • Construction paper
  • Magazine pages with pictures of food items (optional)
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Index cards
  • Writing tools
  • Clear cling wrap
  • Disposable paper bowls OR reusable bowls/ containers

Sum It Up, Options B and C Materials

  • Sum It Up, Options B and C materials: Ingredients for recipes included in the book you chose to read from the list above.
  • If choosing C, talk to a few friends or families of stu-dents before the lesson.Ask if they would be willing to make either a recipe of their own or one of the recipes from the book you’ll be reading. Have them bring their completed foods on an agreed-upon day and have a “taste test”! (For this option, be very careful with food allergies.)


In this lesson, students will learn about the foods children eat in several world cultures. They will also learn that global food cultures make and eat foods that are unique to their country or region.

In the United States, we are lucky to have all sorts of geographical types of land, making it easy to cultivate and grow a great variety of food. Additionally, because there are so many cultures and people groups, we have a large range of interesting foods and cuisines available in many places around our country.

Other countries don’t always have these advantages. Children should understand that many countries have distinct, individual people groups rather than a large variety, and many rely on foods they can grow locally. Appreciating the food people make and eat in particular regions can be a gateway for excellent conversations about diversity and worldwide geography.

Discuss these concepts with your children as you read one of Norah Dooley’s “Everybody” books listed above. These books highlight the various ways people from different cultures use a common food item (rice, bread, soup, and noodles).

As you read, have children label sticky notes with the names of children in the story and the name of the food the family makes and eats. Place these stickers on the map in the region from which the recipe originates.

Activity One

List the Ingredients!

For each food represented by a recipe in the book, have children create a shopping list for a pretend trip to their local grocery store.

For very young children, consider giving them a printed list of common items so they can check if their recipe calls for the ingredient. Leave spaces for them to write the names of “special” ingredients unique to their recipe of choice.

Older students can provide a more detailed list, including measurements.

If you are a classroom teacher, this activity can be done in groups. In addition to the recipes in the book, invite each child to list how their family eats or uses the chosen type of food at home. Either have students write what they think is in the recipe used by their family, or invite them to bring a recipe from home and continue to the next activity when the recipes are returned.

NOTE: This is a topic that can bring up food insecurities. Try not to spend too much time dwelling on foods eaten at home for those you suspect may be struggling. For students with hunger issues, you can have them discuss how the chosen food item is served in the cafeteria. You might even be able to ask one of the cafeteria workers to talk to the kids about the ingredients used in the recipes.

You want to give students the opportunity to share their own culture while also being mindful of situations where students might feel uncomfortable.

If you are a homeschooling parent, choose just two of the recipes from the book. If you have a recipe your family enjoys, list the ingredients you use.

Compare all of the recipes.

Discuss the following ideas:

What ingredients are in every recipe? Sample answers may include water, salt, yeast, flour, rice, etc…

If every recipe asks for a certain thing, do you think that ingredient would be something really hard to find? No

Common ingredients are usually things that are very easy to find. Are there some ingredients only listed in one or two recipes? Could those ingredients be difficult to find in some places? As you look through the recipes and find unique items, discuss whether students have ever seen those items in their own grocery store. If yes, where were they? Were they in a section made for specific cultural food items? If not, talk about why those products may not be available where you live.

It’s important to be able to use foods which are easy to get where you live, isn’t it? Let’s talk more about that.

Activity Two

Race Around the World

Use the “Where Food Grows” stickers on the Happy Map. Give students time to place their favorite two or three stickers on the map and talk about where different foods are grown.

If you are a classroom teacher, divide students into two groups based on whether they like chocolate or vanilla ice cream best.

If your family is homeschooling, allow each family member to choose an ice cream flavor, or assign each flavor to a doll or stuffed animal who can “race” around the world.

Tell them, “In our next activity, we’re going to have a quick race around the world. You will find where your favorite ingredient (vanilla or chocolate) comes from to make your team’s ice cream flavor.

Which team’s ingredient do you think comes from further away?”

Have students find one country on the map from which their ingredient grows. Use a sticker to mark the country.

Ask students to mark a spot relatively close to where they live.

Then let them brainstorm how to figure out which ingredient is grown closer to where you live.

If you are pressed for time, or students are too young to read printed materials and find the name of a country where their ingredient grows, hand them an index card with the name of their country on it.

For example, you could label your index card “chocolate” with “Nigeria” underneath, and then write an index card for “vanilla” with “Madagascar”. Allow them time to find the countries they are searching for and measure to see which ingredient is closer to where they live.

Show What You Know

Discussing Locally Grown Foods

When they are done, ask, “What changes if the ingredient is from a place very far away?

Sample answers may be: “It’s more expensive to buy and use” or “It’s harder to find.”

Talk about the fact that different foods are able to grow in different climates with varying weather and in differing degrees of hardiness and sensitivity. Something like rice or wheat is fairly sustainable in many regions and there are different types that can be grown.

Many fruits and beans (like cacao and vanilla beans) are only able to grow very close to the equator and in tropical climates. And, although cacao grows on more than one continent, it grows in similar climates near the equator.

Ask: So do you think people living close to the North Pole get to eat lots of chocolate and fruits? Would people in Mexico eat snow hare stew or use whale fat in their food? No! Those things don’t live near those places. People use what grows close to them most often.

Sum It Up!

Choose Your Favorite Tastes

Choice A: Give students construction paper, glue, magazines, and scissors. Have them make their version of one of the recipes by cutting out paper “ingredients” and putting them into their bowl. If you’re using disposable bowls, they can glue their creations together in the bowls. If you’re reusing them, you can put cling wrap over the bowl to keep the “ingredients” from spilling out.

Invite them to write out their recipe on an index card. Display the finished culinary delights with their recipes. For further interaction, students can vote for their pick for “Best Chef” or “Best Recipe”.

Choice B: Make a couple of the recipes together, and have a taste test! If you’re feeling adventurous, experiment with local ingredients. One really fun idea is adding local edible flowers to soup or bread. You can usually find these in your grocery store’s produce section.

Choice C: This is an option for which you’ll have to do some arranging with others. If you’re a classroom teacher, talk to the families of your students and see if anyone would be willing to make a special recipe that their family enjoys, or make one of the recipes from the book you read. Ask them to bring the food in on a predetermined day, and have a little sampling for every student.

NOTE: Be very mindful of student food allergies anytime you cook! Be sure to warn families of any food allergies as well, and monitor students’ food interactions carefully.

If you are a homeschooling family, you may be able to have a “foods around the world” day with homeschooling friends or at your local co-op. Ask each family to either make their own recipe or use one from the book. Gather on an agreed-upon day, and sample each other’s foods!

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