Food Systems and Food Access PBL

What is the global issue students are trying to tackle in this problem-based learning unit?

As the world transitions from the Global Pandemic, food insecurity and instability has become a more relevant conversation, even in the United States. How do we develop a more reliable and stable food system? 

Worldwide, 8.9% of the population goes to bed hungry.  In the United States, 3.9% of the population goes to bed hungry.  On top of that, according to estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by 2050 we will need to produce 60 percent more food to feed a growing world population of 9.3 billion.   How can we come together to feed all the people on our planet? 

Students will view this issue through four critical lenses.


How do income rates, GDP, poverty levels affect one's access to food?  How much does a healthy diet cost?


What are the impacts of different farming methods on the environment?  How does the environment one lives in impact their ability to grow or obtain fresh produce?


What is a community's role in feeding its people?  How do cultural and demographic differences alter a community's access to food?


What is the government's role in providing aid to those that struggle with food insecurity?  What policies have been put in place, or should be put in place, to protect or extend food access?

Instructional Material for PBL Educators

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get started on this PBL unit?

Congratulations, you've decided to take part in the Food Justice PBL!  After officially declaring that your program will take part in the PBL, the next step in this process would be to visit the "Introductory Materials" section as well as Unit Zero to read a little about the mission and goals of the PBL, see the schedule of events, and familiarize yourself and your students with the trajectory of the PBL..  

Before the start of the first week of content, you will receive workbooks for each student enrolled in the class that is partaking in the PBL. This is where they will capture ideas and learning outcomes during each lesson.  You will also receive a kit with lab material for the duration of the PBL at the beginning.  A member of the PBL education team will reach out and connect with you and your students to follow up on progress, provide additional resources, facilitate discussion, and bring in additional perspectives to push students to think even deeper.

The first step would be to coordinate with the PBL education team on scheduling which dates you and your students will be attending the PBL lessons in person.  If you need assistance with transportation or scheduling, please contact us in advance so that we may provide additional resources for you to connect with.

What role do teachers serve in this process?

You will have access to the PBL lesson plans and materials and may choose to facilitate the entire week's lesson and simply have a check-in discussion between the PBL education team and your students once per week, or you may choose to have a member of the education team lead the lessons via Microsoft Teams with you serving as an extension of them.  Regardless of your decision, it is beneficial to meet with the education team in order to discuss the way you would like to approach this process and to allow yourself to become better acquainted with the material prior to teaching it.

Your role will mainly be getting students engaged in the lessons outside of their time at the Spur campus, as well as participating in any further deep dive activities in your classroom or program.  Each week, there will be numerous resources varying in form from extension activities to further readings to recorded guest lectures, and everything in between.  It would be your job to continue our efforts in your classrooms and to communicate with the education team as much as possible to be able to maintain their connection with your students.

What do I do if my class misses a week or gets off on the timeline?

These modules are designed to go at a pace that is comfortable for you and your students, and is therefore flexible in that sense.  You may choose to do two lessons in one week if you are behind, to take time off of the preparation or presentation week in order to complete it, shorten the lesson to hit only the key points for that week, or to forego it entirely.  While it would be ideal to have all programs complete all eight lessons, it is by no means required.  While it will not be as easy for the students to grasp the overarching concepts or provide them as well-rounded of an experience, each week's lesson is designed to answer its own question that simply relates back to the bigger picture in some way.  Therefore, the lessons can more or less be completed in any order and any number of them that you are able to facilitate with your students will be that many more lessons than they would have received without this unit. 

What does the final project entail for my students?

The final presentation project is simply a way for students to synthesize their learning and present their ideas to each other, to members of the industry, and individuals throughout the CSU school system.  The presentation will consist of the students' ideas on what they think is/are the most effective way(s) to enact change and increase the world's access to healthy food.  These ideas may be from what they have learned directly in the lessons, something they learned indirectly through lens discussions or further readings and projects, or something they have gone and researched on their own.  While these are opinions that the students have on what is the best course of action, their answers should be rooted in factual evidence that is to be included in this presentation. 

Using the presentation format of their choosing (poster, presentation, slides, etc.), students will work in groups of 4 to describe what they think the best solution (or combination of solutions) for creating a more stable and equitable food system, as well as at least one thing that they could implement in their local communities to help reach that goal/solution.  The sky is the limit here, so long as it is at least moderately feasible and relates back to increasing food access in some way, which should be clearly outlined in their presentation they should go for it.  

Once groups have determined their solution and created their presentation materials, have students present their solutions to their peers.  If you are able to attend the scheduled on Spur Campus presentation date that would be prefered.  Industry professionals, researchers, and CSU staff as well as the other schools participating will all interact with your students solutions.  If it is no feasible to attend it is asked that the presentations are recorded and sent in to the PBL team the Friday before presentation day so that we can display it for others to see.

Want to learn how to get your school or educational program involved in these PBL opportunities?