A Lesson on Hunger: The Great Depression to Today

Make history come alive in the classroom

great depression lesson plan

This Great Depression lesson plan goes beyond history. First, have students discover how the actions of ordinary people impacted government policy during the Great Depression, then ask students to write their own letters about childhood hunger today.

Great Depression Lesson Plan


Begin by sharing with students some of these letters written by children and teens to the Roosevelts. You can also listen to readings of letters and read about how President Roosevelt listened to the public through letters here.


Invite students to respond to the letters in groups. What do students think the letter writers were trying to achieve by contacting the president and his wife? How do they think President and Mrs. Roosevelt felt about receiving these kinds of letters? Do students think the Roosevelts acted in response to any of the letters? Why or why not?


Share with students that, partly in response to direct contact from U.S. citizens during this tumultuous economic period, President Roosevelt led the enactment of many Congressional social service programs throughout his time in office, collectively known as the New Deal.

Hunger Today Lesson Plan


Invite students to listen to part of Roosevelt’s famous “Four Freedoms” speech. As a class, discuss the four freedoms Roosevelt outlines: freedom of speech, the freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Do students think that the letters Roosevelt received in part inspired him to declare these freedoms as essential human rights? Why or why not?



Ask students to consider how much progress we’ve made on Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms.” Do all U.S. citizens currently enjoy freedom of speech and worship, in addition to freedom from want and fear? Why or why not?

Ask students: How do regular Americans get their voices heard today. List some of the ways citizens influence elected officials and corporations: Twitter and Facebook, blogs, reviews of products, comments on articles, live protests. Talk about the power of the cell phone photo or video to tell a story that documents abuse of power. How can art and film also be used to sway public opinion?


Share the short video “ Megan’s Story.” Which of Roosevelt’s freedoms did Megan not experience in her childhood? What questions do students have about the issue of hunger in the United States from watching the video?


As a homework assignment, challenge students to research three facts about childhood hunger in the United States. Begin your next session by sharing the new information students learned about childhood hunger. List these facts on the board.

Referencing your earlier discussions about the children and teens who wrote to Roosevelt during the Great Depression, discuss ways students can bring attention to the issue of childhood hunger and the right to “freedom from want.”