Food — A Delicate Balance

The study of food is not limited to culinary arts, providing lessons in nutrition, making budgets and experiencing taste delights across cultures. Food is a key ingredient in migratory birds' survival balanced against man's desires, climate change and the commerical fishing industry. Snack food production is a business and billion-dollar economic force. Drought, climate change and consumption patterns influence the price of staples such as rice, corn and wheat as well as a cup of coffee.
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Whether talking about recipes for tonight’s dinner, taking in the aroma of hot chocolate or savoring a favorite food, people and food are locked in a balancing act. Daily dietary needs are weighed against the lure of snack foods, fast food vs. home cooked meals, and a limited budget. 

All sections of The Washington Post offer culinary coverage. In News learn of the needs of migratory birds and climate changing healthy growing environments. In Metro meet local restaurant owners and developments. Style and Sports enjoy featured social events and athletes with culinary surprises. In Business read about the food industry, consumption patterns and conflicting business practices. In Food and weekly supplements delight in new dishes, recipes and Tom Sietsema's reviews.

This guide contains a number of models of people and businesses that contribute to the local food industry, examples of foods and writing about food, and the impact of humans, businesses and weather conditions on birds. Reading maps, using mathematics, and examining business approaches are included. Students are asked to read, research, inform their communities and balance the abundance of food choices against hunger.

April 2014

All About Potatoes
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Develop Vocabulary
Business, Culinary Arts, Health

Reading the daily newspaper provides opportunities to see words in context and to use new terms when discussing the content of articles, editorials and features. All the words listed and defined in In the Know may be found in "A snack attack from Route 11." Teachers might encourage students to use the terms when writing about the food industry, culinary arts and food choices.


Conduct an Interview
Botany, Culinary Arts, Journalism, Nutrition

If  You Could Be …” is designed to give students practice in conducting research, synthesizing information to respond to questions and utilizing rhetorical modes. Students are asked to select a fruit or vegetable to research, then answer the questions in the "voice" of the subject of their research. They may use description, comparison and contrast, narration and exemplification. The depth of the expected responses will be determined by the grade level and course content.


Taste a Sweet Business
Business, Career Education, Culinary Arts, Health

Moira E. McLaughlin relates the story of Ben Rasmussen, a Virginia man who started a chocolate factory in his home. Read the February 2014 KidsPost article “Chocolate? YUM!” Discussion questions, map reading and an activity are provided in “One Man’s Chocolate Business.” Teachers should note that students may select whether to do 6a or 6b to explore chocolates further or be assigned to do both activities.


Plan and Budget a Luncheon
Botany, Culinary Arts, Health, Mathematics

During a four-week period, have students collect recipes of interest from the Food section. Students may also ask their parents and guardians about family favorite recipes. The recipes should include these categories: Appetizers, Salads, Soups and Desserts.

1. Students will paste each recipe on an index card and categorize the cards. Students might make other notations on the card such as gluten-free, vegetarian, ethnic influence, meat or fish, special seasoning and potential for allergic reaction.

2. From the collection of recipes, select recipes to create a lunch menu. Teachers may give students “Plan a Meal” to help students with their decisions. Estimate the calorie count per serving. Practice cutting the recipe by half or one-third or by doubling ingredients.

3. Ask students to compile a grocery list. Refer to the grocery store advertisements. For the grocery list items that are on special, record the store and price. Where are the best buys to help students stay within their budgets?

Teachers may also have students review the grocery store advertisements before making a final decision about the luncheon menu. Will certain sale items help them to stay within their budgets and still have a special menu?

4. After reviewing the cost of the proposed menu, any food preferences and allergies of guests, and the balance of the courses, finalize the menu and grocery list.

Cocoa and Coffee
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Study Culinary Arts
Career Education, Culinary Arts, Nutrition

 The Food section and articles in other sections of The Post refer to "culinary arts" or "culinary accomplishments." Readers may find articles about new chefs and reviews of restaurants, fundraising events that feature different cuisines and culinary delights, and athletes who are adept in the kitchen.


“Culinary” is an adjective that refers to cooking. Its root comes from the Latin term culinarius which is from culina, the word for kitchen. Preparing food over the years became specialized and culinary arts became an area of study. A culinarian, commonly called a chef or cook, works in restaurants.


The “Just Can’t Get Enough Culinary Arts” activity asks students to become aware of culinary arts programs in their area high schools and to compare and contrast programs of study that are offered after high school graduation.


Create a Culinary Business
Business, Career Education, Culinary Arts, Journalism

In “Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates serves up meaningful work for young people with intellectual disabilities” reporter Stephanie Kanowitz provides Express readers information about a suburban Virginia business. Discuss with students the purpose of a niche publication like Express. (Teachers might have copies of Express to show students the morning commute publication.)

After reading the article, discussion questions would include:
• What motivated Ellen and Jim Graham to start a coffee and chocolate business?

• Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates is described as a “parallel work environment.” Define this term. Compare and contrast this work place to many others that hire disabled adults.

• What obligations do the owners of Cameron’s Coffee and Chocolates have to customers? To its employees?

• The usual journalistic convention is to state last name in attribution. How does that differ in this article? How does this affect the tone of the piece? To what extent do students think the place of publication, source of quotations and subject influenced the reporter?

Experience an Apprenticeship
Business, Career Education, Nutrition

In March 2014 Post reporter David Hagedorn writes about beginning a bakery-restaurant business. Read “Bakery apprentices learn the ins and outs of opening a food business the hard way.” Hagedorn takes readers behind the scenes a month before Bread Furst is scheduled to open as owner Mark Furstenberg enlists five apprentices — teaching and learning at the same time.


Activities and discussion could include:
• What experience does Furstenberg bring to this new venture?
• What did the apprentices learn about beginning a restaurant?
• Ask students to compile a list of the ins and outs of the apprenticeship approach. Would they recommend it?
• What is the history of apprenticeship? What businesses made use of apprentices? 

Taste Success in Business
Business, Career Education, Geography, Nutrition, Technology

Ask students to write a journal about their five favorite snacks. If they do not eat snacks, ask them to tell why. Discuss with students their snack food habits. How often do they eat snack foods? Which snacks do they prefer to eat? Do they eat Ritz Crackers, potato chips, Doritos or popcorn? Do they prefer nuts, pretzels or peanut butter?

In spite of the economic concerns, Americans are buying snack foods. Retail sales of packaged snacks was at $64 billion in 2010, up $8 billion annual sales from 2006, according to Packaged Facts, “Snack Foods in the U.S.” Take a closer look at this business opportunity, by reading about one segment of the food industry — potato chips.

Review vocabulary in In the Know. Each of these terms appears in the article about a Virginia chipper.

Read and discuss “A snack attack from Route 11: On a slow road to growth, rural Va. firm churns out cult favorite kettle chips.”

"Route 11 Chips Business" is provided to direct reading and discussion.

Read About Food

Connect Survival to Food Source and Climate
Biology, Earth Science, Journalism

Food supply is a concern to all living species. Darryl Fears, a reporter on The Post’s National staff, covers the environment, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and issues affecting wildlife. Give students “Biologists worried by starving migratory birds, seen as tied to climate change.”

Note the informational graphic that includes both a bar graph and art illustration to convey information. Do students find the map helpful?

A Delicate Balance” is provided for students to organize information, consider implications of the factors, conduct an e-Replica search and write a science news article or brief.


Feast on Local Favorites
Business, Culinary Arts, Home Economics, Journalism, Nutrition

Publications develop columns and features that become reader favorites. One such Food section recurring feature is food critic “Tom Sietsema’s 40 favorites.”

In the introduction to his 14th Fall Dining Guide, Sietsema wrote: “If there’s anything I’ve learned in this job, it’s that food is important, but it’s not everything. Comfortable surroundings and attentive service can prop up average cooking, but the opposite is less true: Even great food is diminished if a diner feels neglected.” Sietsema never neglects his readers. His reviews are excellent models of writing restaurant reviews and about food.

“40 Eats: The dishes every Washingtonian must try in 2014” is the third of this feature that emphasizes dishes rather than restaurants. Although Tom Sietsema has his favorite in this collection, so are the ones of readers and Post staffers.

The nine dishes included in our Food resource collection have questions to answer about the foods described on each page. Use these to talk about the particular eats and writing about food.


Ask students to select five favorite eats of their families. Present them using the same format as found on the six eats pages.


Write About Your Five Favorites
Art, Culinary Arts, English, Journalism, Nutrition

Ask students to use the sampling of essential dishes from “40 eats” to create their own collection of favorite foods. Subtitled “The dishes every Washingtonian must try in 2014,” the eats reflect current food preferences and fads. What are the favorite foods for students before or after a sports event, for prom dinner, for a weekend gathering of friends or family night?


Teachers might combine this activity with the science article “Human nose can detect at least 1 trillion odors — far more than thought, say study of smell.”

From lab studies researches “extrapolated that the average human should be able to distinguish at least 1 trillion odors.” How might this discover apply to the enjoyment of foods? Collect a list of adjective used to describe food in “Tom Sietsema’s 40 favorites” and “40 eats.” Brainstorm adjectives to describe the aromas of foods students have collected.


Students are ready to write their own “Five Favorites.”

How Much Does That Cost?
Business, Economics, Journalism, Mathematics, Media Arts

Ask students if they pay attention to the price of a cup of coffee, macchiato or mocha. By how much do the prices vary at different shops and restaurants? Have they noticed a fluctuation in the price at one business? What factors do they think are involved in determining the price that is charged?


Read Tim Carman’s All We Can Eat blog “Peeking behind the veil of Starbuck’s $7 coffee.”

What information is provided on conditions in November 29, 2012? List factors that influence pricing.


After reading and discussing the blog, read Jia Lynn Yang’s February 21, 2014, article, “Coffee shortage may arise due to drought, climate change, rising demand, analysts say.”
• What conditions remain the same since Carman’s November 2012 news?
• Are there new factors presented by Yang?
• Do you have questions after reading the two pieces about coffee and the price of a cup? For whom?
• Conduct research, including an e-Replica search, to update the articles and to answer your questions.
• Observe the price of coffee at restaurants, a variety of coffee shops and coffee dispensers. Develop criteria to compare and contrast the coffee selections.


Journalism and media arts students could conduct student in the hall surveys, prepare an article and informational graphic, or a more extensive coverage (double truck, explanatory news show, photo gallery with informative captions).

Consider the Hungry
Business, Journalism, Nutrition, Social Studies

In this activity, students are asked to read about people who are hungry. Ask students to read and discuss “Waiting for the 8th”  (Dec. 15, 2013), “More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise” (April 9, 2014) and “Feeding families made more hungry by Congress” (November 7, 2013). These are examples of explanatory journalism by Eli Saslow, news coverage by Tara Bahrampour and a guest commentary.


Seek information on the Capital Area Food Bank and other services provided to the homeless, low income and jobless. Conduct an e-Replica search to learn more about this topic in your state and region.


In addition, students may be asked to update and relate the story to their community:
• Study congressional action on food stamp assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),
• Read about food banks, food drives and charitable organizations that provide meals,
• Interview school officials about meals provided to students in your school,
• Interview student recipients of in- and out-of-school meals, their family members and officials who provide food for families.

Ask students to write an explanatory article or to prepare a video or photo gallery based on all of the above. Their purpose is to clarify a situation, discern relevant evidence (facts, experts, studies and anecdotes), anticipate reader/viewer concerns, and produce an organized and effective statement to encourage community dialogue and action. 

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In The Know 

Additive-free Containing no substances to preserve flavor, enhance taste or alter appearance. The U.S. FDA defines "additive" as any substance that is intentionally added to food." Food may be deemed additive-free if the substance is recognized to be safe.
All-natural Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nor the Federal Trade Commission have a strict definition for the term. The FDA indicates the food product "does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."
Boutique A small business specializing in one aspect of a larger industry; specialized producer
Chipper Potato chip maker


Statistical data of a population; statistics including age, race, sex, economic status, level of education and employment of a specified population
Endorsement Public or official statement of support or approval; celebrities are usually paid to say they like or use a product


Constructed; made by one's art, skill and labor
Independent distributor Person or organization that sells and delivers another company's goods to stores; someone who sells a company's products directly to customers, receiving a payment from the company for the amount of goods sold
Investment Outlay of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns; in an economic sense, the purchase of goods that are not consumed but used in the future to create wealth (building a factory)
Mail-order business Buying of goods or services by mail delivery; the customer may order by catalogue, Internet, media advertisement or mass mailing advertisement
Niche A particular area; in niche marketing, the product appeals to a small portion of all potential buyers in that market
Organic According to the US Department of Agriculture, "organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enchance environmental quality for future generations.."
Paradigm Model, typical example, pattern, behavior to be emulated
Promote Publicize or advertise a product, cause or institution
Retail showroom A business space in which products are showcased and sold
Seasoning A substance (such as salt, pepper, an herb or spice) used to add flavor to a food
Specialty market A specialty or niche market is a unique set of willing buyers. A specialty market may also be the target market for your product or service.
Sustainable Quality of not being harmful to the environment; methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources 
Start-up A company in the first stage of its operations. These companies are often bank rolled by their entrepreneurial founders as they develop a product or service.
Tout Talk about someone or something as being very good; persuade to one's point of view or solicit business; attempt to sell in an aggressive manner; 
Trade show A large exposition to promote awareness and sales, especially for new products within an industry; a temporary market where buyers and sellers gather
  Sources: Investopedia, Merriam-Webster Dictionary
District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 


Health. Compare food choices based on nutrient content and value, calories and cost to create a healthy meal plan. (Nutrition, Grade 6, 6.1.14)


Health. Describe the ways technology can affect personal health and health behaviors for better and for worse, such as … the availability and nutrient quality of food. (Media & Technological Influences, Grades 8, 8.4.4)


English. Construct arguments that

• present a cogent thesis;

• structure ideas in a sustained and logical fashion;

• use a range of strategies to elaborate and persuade, such as descriptions, anecdotes, case studies, analogies, and illustrations;

• clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, and/or expressions of commonly accepted beliefs and logical reasoning;

• anticipate and address readers' concerns and counterclaims with evidence;

• demonstrate understanding of purpose and audience; and

• provide effective introductory and concluding paragraphs that guide and inform the reader's understanding of key ideas and evidence. (Expository Writing, 12.W-E.3)



Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Health. Students will demonstrate the ability to use nutrition and fitness knowledge, skills, and strategies to promote a healthy lifestyle.

a. Explain each of the Dietary Guidelines.

b. Identify factors that influence food choices.

c. Compare personal food choices to the Dietary Guidelines.

(Standard 6, Nutrition and Fitness)


English. Analyze important ideas and messages in informational texts (Comprehension of Informational Text, Indicator 4)

a. Analyze the author’s/text’s purpose and intended audience

b. Analyze the author’s argument, viewpoint, or perspective

c. State and support main ideas and messages

g. Synthesize ideas from texts

h. Explain the implications of the text or how someone might use the text

i. Connect the text to prior knowledge or experience



Academic content standards may be found at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Life Science. The student will investigate and understand that ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms are dynamic, change over time, and respond to daily, seasonal, and long-term changes in their environment. Key concepts include
a)   phototropism, hibernation, and dormancy;
b)  factors that increase or decrease population size; and
c)   eutrophication, climate changes, and catastrophic disturbances. (LS.10)


English. The student will develop a variety of writing to persuade, interpret, analyze, and evaluate with an emphasis on exposition and analysis.

a)  Generate, gather, plan, and organize ideas for writing to address a specific audience and purpose.

b)  Synthesize information to support the thesis.

c)  Elaborate ideas clearly through word choice and vivid description.

d)  Write clear and varied sentences, clarifying ideas with precise and relevant evidence.

e)  Organize ideas into a logical sequence using transitions.

f)  Revise writing for clarity of content, accuracy, and depth of information. (Writing, 10.6)


Health. The student will explain how nutrition affects personal health and academic achievement. Key concepts/skills include
a)   the nutrients needed for proper brain functioning;
b)  the importance of balance, variety, and moderation in a meal plan;
c)   the effects of malnutrition; (Information and Skills, 4.1)




Academic content standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

English Language Arts, Writing. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. (Grade 8, Text Types and Purposes, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2)

• Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2f)



English Language Arts, Writing. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration (Research to Build and Present Knowledge, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.7)