Researching Consequences and Stakeholders of Michael Pollan’s Four Food Chains | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M4:U2

Researching Consequences and Stakeholders of Michael Pollan’s Four Food Chains

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In this unit, students research in order to help them make a decision to answer this question: Which of Michael Pollan's four food chains would best feed the United States? They make a decision to answer this question by researching the consequences and stakeholders of each food chain. Students use The Omnivore's Dilemma as a starting point to identify the consequences of each of the food chains. They work in research teams to create a Cascading Consequences chart for each food chain that begins with consequences listed in the text; then they expand their research and consequences by searching for appropriate articles and resources through a child-safe search engine. Teams then use their cascading consequences to identify the stakeholders who will be affected by the consequences, and from there determine which food chain they would choose to feed the United States. At the end of the unit, students present a position speech answering the question.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Which of Michael Pollan's four food chains would best feed the United States?
  • What are the consequences of each of the food chains?
  • Which stakeholders are affected by the consequences of each food chain?
  • The food we buy comes to us from various routes and processes. We can make more informed decisions about what food to buy when we understand those processes and the stakeholders affected by the food choices we make.
  • When taking a position on an issue, you need to research the consequences and stakeholders affected by each option.
  • When putting forward an argument, you need to provide relevant and sufficient evidence to support your claims.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read The Omnivore's Dilemma, an informational text about food sustainability. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies practices and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6-7)

  • Theme 4: Geography, Humans, and the Environment: The relationship between human populations and the physical world (people, places, and environments); impact of human activities on the environment; interactions between regions, locations, places, people, and environments.
  • Theme 9: Science, Technology, and Innovation: Applications of science and innovations in transportation, communication, military technology, navigation, agriculture, and industrialization.

 Social Studies Practices, Geographic Reasoning, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 2: Describe the relationships between people and environments and the connections between people and places (page 58).
  • Descriptor 3: Identify, analyze, and evaluate the relationship between the environment and human activities, how the physical environment is modified by human activities, and how human activities are also influenced by Earth's physical features and processes.

 Social Studies Practices, Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5-8:

  • Descriptor 1: Define and frame questions about events and the world in which we live and use evidence to answer these questions.
  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources).
  • Descriptor 4: Describe and analyze arguments of others.
  • Descriptor 6: Recognize an argument and identify evidence that supports the argument; examine arguments related to a specific social studies topic from multiple perspectives; deconstruct arguments, recognizing the perspective of the argument and identifying evidence used to support that perspective.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Young Readers Edition
by Michael Pollan
One per student
ISBN: 9781101993835


Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite local farmers to discuss with students their farming methods and how the issues that Michael Pollan discusses affect their food production and their livelihood.
  • Invite representatives from grocery stores, including organic and health food stores, to share with students how the issues that Michael Pollan discusses affect their stores and customers.
  • Invite hunters who hunt to feed their families to share with students their perspective on hunting.



  • Arrange for a visit to a local grocery store to look at where the produce comes from and the ingredients in different foods.
  • Arrange for a visit to a food processing plant to look at what happens to food in a factory.
  • Arrange for a visit to farms--for example, a local sustainable farm and an industrial farm--to see how food is produced and to compare the different ways things are done. 


  • Make Cascading Consequences charts for other decisions or dilemmas.
  • Present end of unit assessment adapted position speeches to an audience of adults--for example, parents, teachers, and experts from the food industry.

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