My Girl Scout troop did this activity with Brownies earning the Penny Power Try-It and Daisies earning the Make the World a Better Place petal. It also would apply to several Junior badges that have an activity about caring for the needy, about nutrition, or about comparison shopping.
Divide into teams of 3-5 girls and 1 leader/parent. Assign each team a general category of nonperishable food: canned vegetables, soup, boxed meals (mac&cheese, etc.), fruit juice. Give each team $5 of troop money to spend. Go to the supermarket.
Each team tries to get the best value for the money, considering both price and nutrition.
Back at the meeting place, give each team a turn to explain to the whole troop how they decided what to buy. Then donate the food to a food bank.
This was a fascinating activity! Teams debated whether organic food is worth extra money, whether something on sale below its normal price is better than something normally sold at that low price, whether protein is more important than vitamins or fiber or low fat, and whether we should buy ingredients we don’t know how to pronounce. The juice team learned that a single bottle “may contain” juice from 10 countries on 4 continents. The boxed meal team learned that the cheapest mac&cheese in our store is far healthier than the second-cheapest. The veggie team learned that some canned veggies have almost no vitamins. The soup team learned that one can of soup may contain the Daily Value of sodium for an entire day.
As a warm-up to this activity (while we were waiting for everyone to arrive so we could walk to the supermarket), I showed the girls some pages I’d pulled from the coupon supplement of the Sunday paper, advertising new food products. We talked about how clever wording is used to trick you: “yogurty coated fruity flavored snacks” may contain little to no real yogurt or fruit; the word “beverage” usually means “with a bunch of other stuff thrown in.”
The following week, two third-graders dashed into the meeting yelling, “Ms. Stallings! Ms. Stallings! Look at this!” Earlier in the afternoon, one girl’s dad had bought them drinks from a vending machine; one chose root beer, but the other chose lemonade because she thought it was healthier. Comparing the labels, they’d learned that the lemonade actually had more sugar than the root beer, “and lemons have lots of Vitamin C, right? But this lemonade has zero percent of your daily Vitamin C! So there can’t be very much lemon juice in it!” This was my opportunity to explain that ingredients are listed in order of the amount included. Lemon juice was near the bottom of the list.
Two years later, I am still hearing from parents how their daughters now read food labels and compare prices!
Check out these Ten Fun Ideas for Food Pantry Shopping!