Grades K-5

Activity 1

“One in Six”

Materials needed:

Blue index cards, 
Red index cards
Four bowls
Hard candies or mints
Small paper cups
Safety pins or masking tape

Please consult and abide by any rules or regulations regarding distribution of food in your institution before beginning this activity, and substitute materials as needed. 

How many children in America today are living in poverty? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018, an estimated 11.9 million children were living below the poverty line – 16.2 percent of all children, or one out of every five in the United States. To illustrate the number of children living in poverty, have your group count off by five. Individuals numbered 1 through 5 receive a blue card. Those numbered 6 receive a red card.

Prepare a table at the front of the room with four bowls of food, containing Cheerios, M&Ms, raisins, hard candies, or mints, and a stack of small paper cups. Individuals with a blue card are then invited to come to the food table, and are allowed to take a cup and fill it with cereal, candy, and raisins, all the way to the top, if they desire. Individuals with a red card are then invited to the food table but are told they may only choose the Cheerios – and may only fill their cups halfway. (You might ask your group members to pin or tape the card to their clothing so they can empathize with the notion that others know you are poor, like when children have to present their free lunch cards in the cafeteria, announcing their poverty to their peers.)

Once the distribution is made, the individuals with the blue cards are then advised that they may share any of their food with those holding a red card.

Have the group members write their reactions and reflections in a journal and then share their reactions with the class. How did it feel to be the one in five with the red card? How did it feel to stand at the table spread with food but be allowed to only choose one item – and a lesser amount than available to the others? For the blue card group, what was your initial reaction when told you could share your food with the others? For the red card group, how did it feel to have someone share with you?