Food For Thought

Information and activities are from the "Food For Thought’ tab from the NIE Institute.


Nearly everything you eat comes from either a plant or an animal.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains all come from plants. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy foods are all animal products. Most of these foods come from farms.

Some of the food you eat may be locally raised, but much of it comes from faraway places. Some foods that you eat regularly, such as bananas, even come from other countries.

Plants take chemicals out of the soil and air to make their own food. The substances they contain, including sugars, starches, and minerals, nourish us when we eat them. When we eat animal products, we are getting these same nutrients indirectly, because animals eat
plants, too.

Many different parts of a plant can be eaten. During an ordinary dinner, you might eat leaves, stems, roots, bulbs, flowers, fruits, and seeds! If you don’t believe it, think about those leaves you had for dinner the other night (lettuce). In your salad, you might also have enjoyed some delicious stems (celery), roots (carrots), and bulbs (onions). If your meal included broccoli or cauliflower, you were actually eating flowers.

Grains such as wheat, corn, and rice are the seeds of grass plants. We eat grain in many forms. Wheat is usually ground into flour, which is used for baked goods. Corn may be eaten whole or ground. We usually eat rice whole, either with or without its brown husk.

Meat is the flesh of an animal. The meat we usually eat is muscle, although other parts, such as the liver, are sometimes eaten as well. Cattle (beef and veal), pigs (pork), chickens, and turkeys are the most common food animals in the United States. We also eat fish and other types of seafood. Other animal products include eggs, dairy foods, and gelatin.

A Fruit by Any Other Name …
When is a fruit not a fruit?
“Fruit” actually describes the part of a plant that contains the seeds. By that definition, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants are fruits.We usually call them vegetables, however, and use the word “fruit” only for sweet-tasting plants. A vegetable is an edible plant part other than the fruit.

1. Look through your newspaper’s classified ads and circle all jobs related to food. These positions could include restaurant worker, nutritionist, caterer, and more. Which aspect of the food business is each job related to? Do any of them interest you? If so,why?

2. Even comic strip characters have to eat. Clip any food-related comic strips from the newspaper, discuss the role food plays in the comic’s story, and then design a bulletin board to display the comic strips by theme. Extend this activity by using the grocery ads to plan a special dinner for your favorite comic strip character.

3. Pick any fruit or vegetable from newspaper grocery ads and find out where it comes from. Trace its origins on a map or globe.

4. Arrange a field trip to a nearby farm. Before you go, prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask the farmer about his work. After your visit, write a feature story describing how the farm operates.

5. Many people think packaging should be kept to a minimum so that excess waste isn’t created. As an example, individual bags of potato chips packed in a plastic-wrapped box use material that wouldn’t be necessary in a single bag of potato chips. Look through your newspaper’s food advertisements for examples of efficient and inefficient packaging. Pick one package that you consider inefficient and redesign it.

6. A product’s packaging sometimes influences us. From newspaper ads, select pictures of several packaged foods and discuss with your class whether the packaging for these products is appealing.

1 Response

  1. jimlindlauf

    Very informative! FYI, one thing we eat that is neither plant nor animal is a mushroom: It’s a fungus that lives among us!

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