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New Service-Learning Program: Teach Your Students about Food Insecurity

Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine is excited to announce our new service-learning program, which teaches students about food insecurity and hunger within their communities and empowers them to take action.

Service-learning is a method of teaching and learning that integrates classroom learning with real-world application to solve a problem within their community. Students spend time learning about a challenge and coming up with their own solutions to make an impact.

You can think of service-learning as a three-legged stool. Service-learning is the seat, and the three legs are:

  • Academic Integrity: Students have to learn something related to course content.
  • Student Ownership: Students come up with the solution to the identified problem.
  • Community Partnership: Students work/consult with community partners to make an impact on the issue identified.

In order for a project to be service-learning, it must have all three legs of the stool. If it is missing even one component, it is no longer service-learning. It will become either community service or community-based learning. Here are definitions for both:

  • Community service: An activity where students give their time to address a need within their school or community.
  • Community-based learning: An approach to learning where the teacher/facilitator partners with a community member to enhance learning.

Why Service-Learning?

Service-learning gives us the unique opportunity to partner with schools and other organizations to:

  • Reduce stigma around receiving food assistance
  • Build food security advocates
  • Increase service opportunities across the state
  • Develop future civic leaders
  • Empower community members to take action to end hunger in Maine.
  • Support classroom learning through different styles of learning

All of these concepts are demonstrated through the CASEL Framework (read more about it here). CASEL uses five competencies of social-emotional learning that help to develop the whole individual. We have interwoven the five competencies throughout the service-learning materials.

The Food Bank has collaborated with Tracy Harkins from Harkins Consulting to create this curriculum. Tracy is an expert in service-learning with over 20 years of experience. She has helped teachers and organizations all across the country create service-learning programs. We have designed this program to help build food insecurity ambassadors. We partnered with educators from around the state to elicit feedback and learn how we can develop the materials to support classroom learning best. The materials integrate social-emotional learning and are aligned with Maine Learning Results. Our goal is that this program will encourage more students to become civically involved, increase food security around our state, and support students’ learning in and out of the classroom.

We currently offer the materials to community members who want to host the program. When you sign up to run the program, we will email you a PDF with embedded links to all the resources you will need. There are three levels of the program: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and Ages 14+ (coming soon).

Each lesson is tightly constructed with clear objectives stated. The supporting segments have an allocated amount of time, but the discussions and activities may take longer than the designated time. Teachers have the flexibility to continue the lesson during the next session and use the materials to best meet your schedule.

Content is broken down into five sections:

  1. 1. Capture and Focus—introduces and models the concepts you will discuss
  2. 2. Guided Practice—activities to explore the topics and practice objectives together
  3. 3. Independent Practice—activities for students to practice what they learned by themselves or in small groups
  4. 4. Closure—wrapping up the discussion and a time for reflection
  5. 5. Extension Activities—optional activities for further exploration

The first activity is essential for setting the class up for success in their service-learning journey. Each group will learn what service learning means and establish guidelines for a collaborative environment. Then, they will dive into guided learning opportunities, introducing them to food insecurity. These activities are designed to be launching points for discussions around hunger so they can identify the problems around hunger that their community is facing. Topics include hunger, food insecurity, poverty, food myths, culturally relevant foods, agriculture, nutrition, and more!

The next step in the service-learning journey is for the group to identify a problem for their project and research solutions to their identified problem. From there, they will decide on a project. Our curriculum includes a decision-making matrix to help participants narrow down a project that both meets their interests and is feasible. They will work together to create a project proposal and establish a timeline for their project. Once the project is completed, the group will evaluate how they impacted their community.

We have already had two schools complete the program, and you can learn about their service-learning journeys here:

Our service-learning program is great for any group looking to learn how they can create change within their communities to ensure that every community member has the food they need. Use this program in:

  • Classrooms
  • Afterschool Groups
  • School Clubs
  • Scouts
  • Youth Groups
  • Summer Programs
  • Homeschool
  • Social Clubs

Still, have questions or want more information? Visit our hunger education page at