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January/February 2000
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FoodQuest For Health
by Linda C. Joseph, Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools, Library of Congress

[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear in the chart that follows.]

Before the next commercial break, describe a food label. When was the last time you read one while grocery shopping? Do you conjure up thoughts of nutrients when you hear Tony the Tiger say, “It’s great,” order a Big Mac and fries at McDonald’s, or see the “Got milk?” ad. Affable cartoon characters, golden arches, and clever advertisements are marketing tools designed to motivate us to purchase food products, but not necessarily to get us to think about ingredients. How, then, do we introduce students to nutritional information in an engaging way that will prepare them to be smart food shoppers?

A WebQuest framework, developed by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University, is one approach to investigating the topic of nutrition, specifically food labels and the Food Guide Pyramid. The example in the “FoodQuest for Health” sidebar focuses on three levels of inquiry that will stimulate student thinking about the nutrients and ingredients in the foods they eat and how food choices might affect their health. In addition, the activity allows students to put into action what they have learned. Use the Web sites in this article for your resources.

Nutrition Starting Points

Dole 5 A Day
Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables to an average of five or more servings a day is the mission of the 5 A Day for Better Health Program. Dole is a founding member in partnership with the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. You will want to bookmark this site and use it with your elementary and middle school students. Read the current Dole Update, “What Your Children Are Eating,” sample one of the delectable recipes such as “Fruity Breakfast Parfait” from the Kid’s Cookbook, or visit the nutrition center and look up nutrition facts on fruits and vegetables. Top off your experience by listening and singing along to the 5 A Day songs or performing the 5 A Day Live musical. You can download the performance kit that contains the script, how to make costumes, sets, and other necessary materials for a successful production.

Healthy Choices for Healthy Kids
The growers of Washington State apples have put together the “Healthy Choices for Kids” program to help children understand the benefits of healthy eating and keeping active. The program aligns with the USDA dietary guidelines. Debra Thumser French, registered dietitian, and Joan Walsh, who holds a Ph.D. in Nutrition and Food Science from Utah State University, developed the activities and corresponding worksheets. The materials are designed for grades 1-5 and cover topics such as Food Group Favorites, Snack Food Stars, and Know Your Nutrients. This is a great resource for teachers.

Kids Food Cyber Club
Track down answers to a scavenger hunt or learn how to grow your own plants. Interact with the hosts through e-mail by submitting a recipe, suggesting a book, or answering the question of the month. These are only a few of the activities you can do at the Kids Food Cyber Club.

Nutrition Café
In this series of interactive games, students will be challenged in their knowledge of nutritional facts. Based on the popular hangman game, Nutrition Sleuth provides clues for finding the missing nutrient. In Grab a Grape, you are given the answer and must choose the correct question about nutritional facts. Have-a-Bite Cafe allows you to select a meal, then analyze a table of nutrients for your choice. Additional information includes a glossary and links to other sites.

Food Labels

Kellogg’s Nutrition Camp
Using Kellogg’s Corn Flakes nutritional information, the Food Label Guy explains calories, fat grams, and daily values of minerals and vitamins. Charts showing sodium and fiber content in Kellogg’s cereals can be used to illustrate how to choose cereals for special dietary needs. One unique feature of Nutrition Camp is the Calisthenics Calculator game. Select a physical activity, input your weight, enter the time, and calculate how many calories will be burned in relationship to various Kellogg’s products.

Understanding Food Labels
Reading a food label is simple when you follow this easy-to-understand presentation. A short history of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act is provided along with concise explanations describing the information that must be contained on a food label. Have students examine Krispy Krunchies and draw conclusions about the nutritional value. Rounding out this exceptional page are the Food and Drug Administration guidelines of claims and descriptions manufacturers may use to promote their products.

Food Guide Pyramid

Food Fun for Kids
Teachers will want to review the nutrition lessons geared for grades 4-6 and the free materials available through online ordering. Kids will want to explore the games such as Climbing the Food Guide Pyramid. The Fun Family Meals section will assist students in planning and choosing delicious combinations of culinary delights. Numerous recipes are supplied for budding chefs. The National Pork Producers Council sponsors this site.

Food Guide Pyramid
Find the daily servings for each of the food groups by clicking on the interactive Food Guide Pyramid. Learn about balancing food with physical activity. The USDA supplies a wealth of information, including guides that you can print, teacher resources, and links to Food Guide Pyramids from several cultural groups.

Historical Background
Although we go to the grocery store to purchase food, how often do we think about the behind-the-scenes process? Before grocery stores existed, how did people put food on their table? When did personal shopping with a basket/cart begin? You might want to explore the historical background behind the various food industries and processes. Several companies and food growers provide that kind of information on their Web pages. It is fascinating to view a slide show of early apple production or listen to audio clips of cereal commercials.

Campbell’s History
Journey with the Campbell Soup Company through the decades. A rich collection of photographs and prints accompany events on the timeline.

General Mills
General Mills traces its roots back to the largest flourmill west of Buffalo. In 1866, Cadwallader C. Washburn built the extravagant edifice. Many scoffed at his enterprise. However, his flour won a gold medal in 1880 at the first Millers’ International Exhibition. The flour was renamed Gold Medal and has been a popular brand ever since. General Mills was formed in 1928. Many interesting tidbits are offered on several timeline pages.

If you are interested in the history of advertising, you won’t want to miss the radio shows from the 1920s to the 1950s. Listen to audio clips of Betty Crocker, the Wheaties Quartet, and the Lone Ranger theme.

History of Peanut Butter
Read about the history of peanut butter from its beginnings in 1890 to the present. Learn how peanut butter is produced. Names like Skippy and Jif are common in many households. However, did you know that the oldest peanut butter company still in operation is in Columbus, Ohio? Before you leave the site, play the trivia game or print some of the peanut butter recipes.

Washington Apples
The North Central Washington Museum has compiled an archive of photographs about the early history of the Washington State apple industry. Included in the collection are pictures of orchards, irrigation systems, warehouses, families, equipment, pickers, and promotions from the early 1900s to the 1920s.

Grocery Bag Bonanza
Did you know that you can shop online and have groceries delivered right to your doorstep without leaving the comfort of your home? Take your students on a virtual shopping trip. Give your students a budget and let them shop for a week’s worth of groceries. Have them print their purchases and total cost. Share the results of the excursion in class. What are the advantages and disadvantages of shopping online? Why might a storeowner prefer that you shop in person rather than electronically? NetGrocer and Peapod are two sites that allow you a tryout without a login and password. To place an actual order you must have a membership. This is a great culminating activity or one that can stand alone.

Be sure to visit the MultiMedia Schools Home Page (https://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools) with active links to all of the Web sites mentioned in this article. Then fly over to CyberBee (http://www.cyberbee.com) for a glimpse of Egan’s Basket Grocery, more curriculum ideas, treasure hunts, research tools, and activities to use with your students and staff.

FoodQuest For Health
The purpose of this WebQuest is to introduce students to the Food Guide Pyramid and food labels. At the conclusion of this WebQuest students will be able to explain the items that are contained on a food label and their significance. They will also be able to plan a balanced meal based on the Food Guide Pyramid. 

Your task is to examine food labels for nutritional content and classify them according to the Food Guide Pyramid. You will also plan a menu. Your final project will include:

  • A list of items from five different food labels
  • A table of ingredients from five food labels
  • A chart showing where the food labels fit on the Food Guide Pyramid
  • A day’s menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
  • A recipe from your menu
Answer the Skill Level and Concept Level questions while you are on your FoodQuest.

Skill Level
What is a food label?
What items are listed on a food label?
When did the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act go into effect and why was it established?
What is the food guide pyramid?
What is a serving?

Concept Level
Why is it important to understand a food label?
How can a food label ensure that you consume the appropriate amount of vitamin B each day?
How can a person on a low-cholesterol diet benefit from reading a food label? 
How can the food guide pyramid help you plan your daily meals?

Application Level
Plan a day’s menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks utilizing the information you learned from the food guide pyramid and food labels.

You will be working in teams. Think of a team name that relates to nutrition like the Macaroni Marvels or Rhubarb Raptors. 
1. Examine five different food labels.
2. Create a list of the items found on each label. 
3. Make a table of the ingredients for each label. 
4. Compare several different labels and where the food products fit on the Food Guide Pyramid.
5. After you complete 1-4, answer the Skill Level and Concept Level questions.
6. Plan a day’s menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that promotes good health and follows the recommended daily servings from the Food Guide Pyramid.
7. Find a recipe for one of your meals.
8. Prepare to share your findings and menus with the class. All members of the group must contribute to the class presentation.

Use the Web sites in the FoodQuest for Health article. 


4. Clear evidence of understanding food labels and classification of Food Guide Pyramid. Content shows knowledge of food labels and comprehension of nutritious menu  planning. Covers topic completely.
3. Adequate evidence of understanding food labels and Food Guide Pyramid. Menu planning indicates understanding of nutrition.
2. Some evidence of understanding food labels and Food Guide Pyramid. Some understanding of planning nutritious menus.
1. Little evidence of understanding food labels, Food Guide Pyramid, or nutritious menu planning.

When you read food labels you may have been surprised by what you found. You learned how the Food Guide Pyramid can help you choose daily servings from the food groups.

Hopefully, you have learned the importance of eating well-balanced nutritious meals. You might like to look at some food labels that do not have any identifying information and guess the product or prepare one of the meals you planned. 

Web Sites
Nutrition Starting Points

Dole 5 A Day

Healthy Choices for Healthy Kids

Kids Food Cyber Club 

Nutrition Café 

Food Labels

Kellogg’s Nutrition Camp

Understanding Food Labels

Food Guide Pyramid

Food Fun for Kids

Food Guide Pyramid

Historical Background

Campbell’s History

General Mills 

History of Peanut Butter

Washington Apples

Online Grocery Shopping




Linda Joseph is the author of Net Curriculum: An Educator’s Guide to Using the Internet, published by CyberAge Books. The recipient of numerous awards, in addition to her work in the Columbus Public Schools and the Library of Congress, Linda is a part-time instructor for Ohio State University. Communications to the author may be addressed to her at Columbus Public Schools, 737 East Hudson Street, Columbus, OH 43211; 614/365-5277; ljoseph@iwaynet.net.

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