Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Food Source

Association of AmericanGeographers

Activity Source:

Association of American Geographers. Adapted with permission.

How diverse are the food sources in your community and where are they located? How far do they travel to reach you? Do you think the food sources for your community are sustainable? This multi-day activity explores these questions.

As of 2008, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities for the first time in the history of the planet. An increasing number of people will be relying on food production and distribution systems for their food supply. Interruptions in production or transportation can affect food security. To learn more, go online to


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Paper and pen or pencil


  1. Go online to and print the three-page PDF for the full activity.

  2. Look at the MyCOE Community Food Source Inventory Guide on page 2. At home, pick three to five food products across the given food categories. Make a note of where each item came from as indicated on the product label or from the source where you got it. Try to pick foods from different categories suggested.

  3. Find the approximate distance from the source to your community for each food item by using this tool: Calculate the average distance that food travels to you by adding all of the distances and dividing by the number of products.

  4. In class, combine your information with other students’. Compute the approximate distance that each product took from its origin to your destination in the last column using the online tool in the link provided on page 2.

  5. Add up the total number of products and find the average distance of all of the products that your class identified (total distance divided by number of items). Report that number in the box on the bottom of the page.

  6. Now, create a map of the origins of the food sources on a hand-drawn outline map of the world, or use Google Maps to create markers where each product came from.

  7. Discuss: What geographic factors help explain where different kinds of products might come from? For instance, fresh fruit usually comes from places near the destination, although tropical fruit only grows in certain regions. Are these patterns sustainable? What risks do these patterns present for a secure food source? Based on your map, what do you notice about the location and distribution of food sources in your community?

  8. Write a brief paragraph summarizing your findings and any new questions you have.

  9. Optional: Share your project results with other MyCOE participants and begin a classroom exchange. Use the instructions on page 3. This can be done by the adult point of contact for the project.