K8-8 Debate Plate #5: Cost and Access Chili and Cornbread

Published July 27, 2016 | Updated October 7, 2016
Place of Learning: Kitchen
Resource Type: Lessons
Grade Level: Grade 8
Uploaded by:
Kyle Cornforth
Program Affiliations:

In this eighth grade humanities lesson, students make Vegetarian Chili and Cornbread and learn about how issues of cost and access can both inspire and enforce food choices. Students debate the question of whether accessing healthy, sustainable and socially just food is a right, a privilege, or a responsibility, and which one it should be. Students reflect on and synthesize material from the Debate Plate series. This is the fifth of five Debate Plate lessons, which is a series that focuses on factors that influence personal food choices.


After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe and give examples of how issues of cost and access impact food choices
  • Construct and defend an argument on the question of whether access to healthy, sustainably-produced and socially just food is a right, a privilege, or a responsibility
  • Construct and defend an argument on the question of whether access to healthy, sustainably-produced and socially-just food should be a right, a privilege, or a responsibility
  • List and describe considerations they have when deciding what to eat, discuss the factors that influence how they prioritize those considerations and give examples of the role nutritional, environmental, and justice concerns play in their food decisions 

During this lesson, students will:

  • Discuss how issues of cost and access impact food choices
  • Debate the question of whether access to healthy, sustainably-produced and socially just food is a right, a privilege, or a responsibility
  • Debate the question of whether access to healthy, sustainably-produced and socially-just food should be a right, a privilege, or a responsibility
  • Discuss and write about considerations they have when deciding what to eat, the factors that influence how they prioritize those considerations, and whether those have changed over the course of the Debate Plate lesson series

For the Chef Meeting

For the Table

For the Closing Circle

Ingredients for the Vegetarian Chili

  • Assorted cooked beans (black, kidney, chili, red)
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Bell pepper
  • Crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • Ground cumin
  • Chile powder
  • Dried oregano
  • Tomato paste
  • Bulgur
  • Salt

Ingredients for the Cornbread

  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Honey


  • Heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Small saucepan
  • Wooden spatulas
  • Chef knives
  • Paring knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mixing bowls
  • Graters
  • Peelers
  • Reamers
  • Mortar and pestles (for grinding spices if not already ground)


  • Stove
  • Oven
Before You Begin

Timeline Overview

Total Duration: 90 minutes

  1. Invitation*  (2 minutes)
  2. Reflection (5 minutes)
  3. Concept Invention*  (8 minutes)
  4. Application* (5 minutes)
  5. Application* (65 minutes)
  6. Reflection* (5 minutes)


1. Invitation*: (2 minutes)

  1. Welcome students and remind them of the theme of the week: Debate Plate, in which we have explored the food system through different lenses.

At the Chef Meeting

2. Reflection*: (5 minutes)

  1. Remind students that we started the week brainstorming different considerations someone might have in choosing what to eat.
  2. Ask them if they have any new considerations to add, then begin a Student Brainstorm to generate answers to the question written on the board
    • What do you take into consideration when deciding what to eat?
    • Put student ideas up on the board.

3. Concept Invention*: (8 minutes)

Students learn about cost and access.

  1. Explain that today we will finish off the week by looking at the food system through the lens of cost and access.
    • Cost and access can inform food choices, like the other lenses we’ve been looking at.
    • But unlike the other lenses, they can also enforce food choices.
      • If a food is unavailable or prohibitively expensive, it is no longer an option.
  2. But the idea of access can go even more broadly than that.
    • For example, ask students what would happen if you asked them right now to make some 鱼香瘸子(yuxiang quiezi).
      • What might get in the way? (Don’t know what it is, don’t know how to make it, not familiar with techniques even if you have the recipe, don’t have equipment, don’t know where to get the ingredients, ingredients aren’t available nearby, no way to get to where the ingredients are sold, don’t have time to get the ingredients or time to make the dish)
      • All of these are issues of access.
    • For another example, ask students what would happen if in one hand you had a big, beautiful head of fresh picked broccoli, and in the other a bag of potato chips?
      • Between these two items, which one do you think is more nutritious overall? (Broccoli.)
      • Which one likely has a smaller carbon footprint, or has processes behind it that score more highly in environmental sustainability? (Broccoli.)
      • Which one do you think the workers who helped to grow and process it received a higher proportion of what you paid for it? (Broccoli.)
      • And which one is probably cheaper? (Chips.)
    • Although the broccoli scores higher in health and nutrition, environmental sustainability, and in justice and labor, it is more expensive.
      • This means that depending on one’s financial means, not everyone will be able to prioritize their own health, the health of the environment or the wellbeing of workers because they will not be able to afford that choice. Does this seem right?

4. Application*: (5 minutes)

Students debate the question of whether access to healthy food is and should be a right, a privilege, or a responsibility.

  1. Ask students to debate the following:
    • Do you think that as things stand now, access to healthy, environmentally sustainable, and socially-just food is a right, a responsibility, or a privilege?
    • Is there anyone benefitting from how our food system is currently set up?
    • Do you think that access to healthy, environmentally sustainable, and socially-just food should be a right, a responsibility, or a privilege?
  2. Thank students for their ideas and discussion.
  3. Explain that in continuing to explore the issues of cost and access, we’ll be cooking a very affordable meal of  chili and cornbread today.
    • The chili cost about 75 cents per serving.
    • The cornbread cost about 8 cents per.
    • That’s just under 85 cents for a full meal.
  4. Pass out Exit Tickets and explain that students can fill these out during any free time they have during this class time, these are meant to be anonymous and won’t be made public.
  5. Ask students to wash their hands and join their table group.

At the Table

5. Application*: (65 minutes)

Students make Cornbread and Vegetarian Chili.

  1. Introduce jobs for the day in more detail.
    • Describe how chili can be made with just about anything.
    • Similar to the Spiced Red Lentil Stew and Indian-Spiced Cabbage Slaw from earlier in the week, we’ll be cooking the chili powder in oil at the very beginning along with onion and garlic to infuse the whole dish with flavor
  2. Assign jobs.
  3. Prepare the recipe.
  4. While students are waiting for the chili and cornbread to cook, encourage students to order the Food Priority Cards by personal priority, these are the lenses through which we can view issues in the food system.
    • What are the most important considerations for you when choosing what to eat? Why?
    • What dimensions of access impact your food choices? Why?
  5. Set the table; eat; clean up.
    • Tell the origin story of chili and ask the following questions at the table:
      • Even from the very beginning, chili was a dish all about stretching limited food resources in harsh conditions to make a delicious, nourishing staple. Legend has it that chili, as we know it today, started in the 17th century as a staple for the poorest travelers through the American Southwest. Cowboys and outlaws who journeyed through the dry landscapes took pouches of dried beans, dehydrated meat and onions, dried chilies and other spices that they boiled on the road to make chili.
      • Prisons throughout the Southwest also fed chili to the prisoners, because it was the cheapest kind of “gruel” that could sustain large numbers of prisoners. Supposedly, prisons that served particularly delicious versions of chili became notorious among outlaws, and they would purposefully find ways to get arrested in certain counties with delicious chili just to get to eat well for free.
      • How many of your own considerations for deciding what to eat can you think of? What factors influence how you prioritize those considerations?
      • What roles do nutritional, environmental, and justice concerns play in your food decisions? Have those roles changed over the course of the Debate Plate lesson series?
      • How has the Internet changed access to food knowledge and culture?
      • What was your favorite food this week? Anything you think you’ll make at home? What might you change about the recipes?

At the Closing Circle

6. Reflection*: (5 minutes)

Students reflect on today’s class time.

  1. Ask students for a rating of the food, from 1-5.
  2. Remind students to fill out and turn in their Exit Ticket before leaving class. 
  • Access
Connections to Edible Education Framework

Communication is strengthened by practicing effective public speaking, listening, and responding to others by debating the question of whether access to healthy food is and should be a right, a privilege, or a responsibility, and exercising an advanced level of teamwork in the kitchen by working in groups independent of the teacher. Sustainability is highlighted by discussing how sustainable food processing and production methods often result in higher prices at the supermarket and debating whether access to sustainably-produced food is a right, a privilege or a responsibility and whether or not it should be. Nourishment is explored by discussing how access to nutritious food may be limited by financial means, geography, knowledge of ingredients, cooking skills or lack of time. Life Skills are sharpened as students learn how to make vegetarian chili and cornbread, two economical, quick and nutritious recipes, and reflect on the wide variety of factors they have to take into consideration when deciding what to eat.

Academics fulfill Common Core State Standards in ELA for collaborative discussion; speaking and listening, language; following multistep procedures; integrating quantitative or technical information; Health Standards for making healthy food choices; safe food handling and preparing nutritious food. See Connections to Academic Standards below for details. 

Connections to Academic Standards

Common Core State Standards, English Language Arts and Literacy, Grade 8

  • SL.8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher- led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • SL.8.1.a Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
    • SL.8.1.b Follow rules for collegial discussions and decision-making, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
    • SL.8.1.b Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.
    • SL8.1.c Acknowledge new information expressed
by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.
  • SL.8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • SL8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 on page 53 for specific expectations.)
  • L.8.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • L.8.1.d Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood.
  • L.8.3 Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
  • L.8.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
  • RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies. RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.  
  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Health Education Content Standards for California Public Schools, Grades 7 & 8

  • 1.4.N Describe how to keep food safe through proper food purchasing, preparation, and storage practices.
  • 1.8.N Identify ways to prepare food that are consistent with current research-based guidelines for a nutritionally balanced diet.  
  • 4.1.N Demonstrate the ability to use effective skills to model healthy decision making and prevent overconsumption of foods and beverages.  
  • 7.1.N Make healthy food choices in a variety of settings.

  • 7.2.N Explain proper food handling safety when preparing meals and snacks.


Connections to Edible Schoolyard Standards

Edible Schoolyard 3.0 

In the Edible Schoolyard Program

  • 1.0 Students work with each other and teachers to develop community and personal stewardship, along with skills that will help them navigate different situations throughout their lives.
  • 1.1.1 – 1.3.12 This lesson fulfills all Edible Schoolyard Program standards, numbers 1.1.1 through 1.3.12. See The Edible Schoolyard Berkeley Standards for details.

In the Kitchen Classroom, 8th Grade

  • Tools 2.1.1 Choose the right tool for each job at the ESY Cooking Station, anticipate steps of the recipe, and take initiative to cook independently.
  • Tools 2.1.2 Select measuring tools from the ESY Toolbox to measure precisely and convert measurements.
  • Concepts 2.3.8 Approach lessons with intention by thinking through how the recipe relates to the kitchen, garden, and wider environment as a whole.
  • Concepts 2.3.9 Collaborate to identify, choose, and complete jobs to execute recipes, and explain each individual contribution to the end result.

All lessons at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley are developed in collaboration with the teachers and staff of the Edible Schoolyard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School.

Learning Cycle and Think-Pair-Share discussion routine © The Regents of the University of California. All materials created by BEETLES™ at The Lawrence Hall of Science.

This lesson follows the BEETLES Project’s Learning Cycle (Invitation-> Exploration -> Concept Invention -> Application -> Reflection) and uses their Discussion Routines (Think-Pair-Share, Whip-Around). All are highlighted * with an asterisk for easy identification. See the documents BEETLES Discussion Routines and BEETLES Learning Cycle included in Resources below for more information.

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