I’m working on a presentation for TESOL 2013 about providing students with the language they need to make food choices. My premise is that most lessons on food don’t do that. Typically, we focus on the language of expressing preference, while ignoring areas like allergies, religion and ethical beliefs. In my presentation, I’ll be sharing ideas for supplementary activities to introduce this missing language.
One area I’m interested in is food that might be banned in students’ home countries that is sold in the US. An example of this is genetically modified food. GMO ingredients are outlawed in many countries and are almost ubiquitous (and completely unlabelled) in America. If a student in the US is interested in avoiding GMO ingredients in their processed food, the only way to do so reliably is by buying organic. In my experience, very few students know this.
My wife recently found this article which lists several other ingredients and additives that are banned in many countries but still widely used in the US. Some of these are things that students might want to look for on labels, while others (like the arsenic in chicken feed) can only be avoided by going organic or vegetarian / vegan. This could easily be added to this label reading activity aimed at familiarizing students with environmental terminology.
This would obviously fit well into a unit on food, but it would also be great in unit on health. This topic also lends itself to some great discussion questions, like asking why things might be banned in one country and legal in another. For advanced learners, looking critically at the actions of the FDA could be a fruitful way to explore the conflicting influences of public and corporate interests in the government.
I made a clean PDF of the article, removing logos, pictures and links to related articles. I didn’t edit the language at all, though, but I would adapt it before using it with students.
And if you’re coming to TESOL and are interested in hearing more about this, my session will be on Thursday, 3/21 from 1-1:45 in room D163.