Target Grade Level / Age Range:



45 minutes


Students will learn about the sources of different foods by differentiating between foods originating from plants and foods originating from animals.


  • Index Cards
  • Crayons, colored pencils or markers
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Photographs of various food

Suggested Companion Resources:

  • Where Does Food Come From? (Exceptional Science Titles for Primary Grades) by Shelly Rotner & Gary Gross
  • How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth
  • Food Fight! By Carol Diggory Shields
  • Showdown At The Food Pyramid by Rex Barron
  • Food For Thought by Saxton Freymann & Joost Elffers
  • From the Garden: A Counting Book About Growing Food by Michael Dahl
  • Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert


  • Livestock – animals farmed for food, such as cattle, pigs, and sheep
  • Crops – plants that are grown for food, fiber, or fuel
  • Farmer – a person who grows crops or raises livestock as a job

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Students will use art and creativity to draw food items and sort them into appropriate places.

Background – Agricultural Connections:

Students will use knowledge of and experience with agriculture to decide where food comes from. Most foods come from either a plant or an animal that was raised on a farm. Some foods (like salt) are minerals that come from the natural world. Other foods, like fish, are sometimes harvested from the wild.

In this lesson, students will have to decipher the origination of various foods and sort them into categories based on if they are from plants or animals. Students will be sorting common foods like cheese, fruits and vegetables, apple juice, and chocolate.

Minimally processed foods, like fruit and vegetables may be easier to decipher. Fruits and vegetables come from plants. Most of these specialty crops are grown in warm climate areas, like California, where they can grow them year-round.

Fruit juices, chocolate, cookies, and bread may be more difficult to decipher. Fruit juices still come from fruits, primarily ones that grow on trees or vines (apples, oranges, grapes). These fruits need pollinators to pollinate the trees flowers so the fruits can form.

Chocolate comes from the cacao bean, which grows on a tree. This needs a very warm climate, so we purchase cocoa from places like Ghana. Cookies and bread have multiple ingredients. They use wheat flour, milk from cows, oil from soybeans, eggs from chickens, maybe butter also from cows, and other various things. Though wheat may be the principle ingredient, they have ingredients from both plants and animals!

Students may be aware that meat comes from animals, but that’s not the only thing they give us. They also give us dairy products, eggs, and several non-food products, like leather.


  1. Open a discussion with students about foods they typically eat in a day or week. Use a classroom white board to list student contributions to the discussion. 
    1. Be sure to include cheese, clementines, carrots, tomatoes, apple juice, chocolate, and milk. These will be referred to later in class.
  2. Ask students where they think these foods came from. Write their responses next to each food on the list. For example, students may state that corn comes from seeds. Keep their responses on display for future reference. 
  3. Have students use crayons and 5 x 8 blank index cards to draw pictures of each of the foods. If students are able, ask them to include the names of the foods on the pictures. Store each student's cards in an envelope or recycled cardboard box. 
  4. Read the book Where Does Food Come From? (Exceptional Science Titles for Primary Grades) by Shelly Rotner & Gary Gross or How Did That Get In My Lunchbox? The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth aloud to the class. Allow students time to react to the reading and discuss their ideas regarding the origination of their foods.
  5. Were there any foods in the book we did not discuss? If so, add them to the list now. 
  6. Once the list is updated, ask the students:
    1. Remember the cheese in the lunchbox? Where did it start? What were some of the processes that got it from the farm to your sandwich?
      1. Cheese is a dairy product that comes from a cow. A cow is milked, and the milk is refrigerated and taken to a cheese plant, where it is cultured and turned into cheese! It is then packaged and sent to stores.
    2. What do the clementine, the carrots, and the tomato in the lunchbox have in common?
    3. Apple juice still contains a fruit. Where does it come from?
      1. Apples grow on trees. Washington state grows the most apples of all of the states. Apples need to be pollinated to form fruit. The apple tree sets flowers in the spring, which get pollinated and then form the fruits. Apples are harvested in the fall.
    4. Chocolate beans, clementines, and dairy come from very different parts of the world. What are some reasons why they aren’t grown all in the same place?
      1. All plants have certain needs. Some plants need to be warm all the time, so they can’t live where there are harshwinters. Animals are the same way, and some live better in some climates than others.
    5. The cookie in the lunchbox contains milk, eggs, butter, and flour. Do you have any ideas where these ingredients came from?
      1. Milk comes from cows that are milked 2-3 times a day. Eggs come from chickens who lay one egg about every day. Butter comes from milk that has been churned, or mixed up a lot. Flour comes from wheat that has been processed to be a fine powder.
  7. Tell students to take out their index cards with food pictures. Tell them their mission is to sort the pictures into two stacks: one stack of foods that come from plants, and one stack of foods that come from animals.
    1. Give students a few minutes to work. Walk around the room checking for accuracy and answering questions as they arise.
    2. Optional: this activity could be a game that the whole class participates in. The attached Animal or Plant Pictures document could be printed and cut apart and groups of students could see who can sort the pictures the fastest and the most accurately.
  8. After the sorting activity is complete, recap with the students. What types of foods come from plants?
    1. Fruits and vegetables come from plants, as well as flour (wheat), vegetable oil (soybeans), and some other things like tofu (soybeans) and almond milk (almonds)
  9. What types of foods come from animals?
    1. Meats come from animals, as well as dairy products, eggs, and honey.

Essential Files:

Extension Activities:

  • Use a map of the world and a map of the United States to help students identify where in the world certain crops and livestock are raised. For example, corn in Iowa, peaches in Georgia, Kiwifruit in New Zealand, olives in Italy, etc. Discuss why certain areas of the world grow certain crops and livestock.
  • Discuss food from other countries that might not be typical for the U.S. Introduce foods like escargot, guacamole, tripe, and wasp crackers.
  • Invite a community member that is a practicing nurse or nutritionist to visit with students and discuss food groups and eating habits. Prior to the meeting, talk with students to determine what their questions are for the expert. Write these questions on a classroom white board or easel paper. Have student questions in a visible spot in the classroom when the expert arrives. After the visit, students talk in small groups about what they learned. Using Crayola Crayons, students illustrate what they have just learned about foods. Encourage students to share their illustration and learning with parents and other family members.
  • Organize a class trip to a local farm. Prior to the trip, students discuss when questions they have for the professional farmer. After the trip, students meet in small groups to discuss what they learned and use Crayola Crayons or colored pencils to illustrate their experiences.
  • Create short videos of students reporting about foods from animals or plants. Students use recycled materials to create a costume and give themselves a name for their reporting exercise, such as "Frank, the Food Reporter." Video the students responding to student illustration of foods or photographs. Share videos with parents and other family members.


Jan Whaley

Organization Affiliation:

Story County Farm Bureau

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • T2.K-2.b. Identify animals involved in agricultural production and their uses (i.e. work, meat, dairy, eggs)
  • T1.K-2.a. Describe how farmers/ranchers use land to grow crops and support livestock
  • T5.K-2.f. Trace the sources of agricultural products (plant or animal) used daily

Iowa Core Standards:

  • English Language Arts:
    • SL.2.2: Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media
  • Iowa Core Science Standards:
    • 2-LS4:1: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.