Ethos Education

In Time: Why do inequalities in access to food matter?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Awareness of different causes of poverty.
  • Awareness of different consequences of poverty.
  • Detailed knowledge of one Christian individual or organisation working to alleviate world poverty, and how Christian belief motivates that work.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the injustice of 925 million people being hungry in a world that produces enough food for everyone.
  • Analyse a film clip showing the economic impact of life for the working class in a developed society.
  • Evaluate the significance of food insecurity in the developing world.
  • Reflect upon statistics concerning global food insecurity and injustice.
  • Analyse Isaiah 58:6-10 to determine what it suggests about Christian perspectives to social justice with regard to food.
  • Analyse the work of Christian Aid in the area of food justice.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a dialogue between the prophet Isaiah and one or more characters from In Time.


In advance of the lesson, buy a number of small chocolate bars. At the start of the lesson arrange them in a heap on your desk and explain that you are going to share them with the students. Walk around the class randomly giving out cards cut out from the chocolate card handout. This is important: don’t produce the same number of each card. Photocopy the sheet with numbers 2 and 3 on it once and once only; photocopy the sheet with four number 1s on it enough times for the rest of the class to have a card. In summary, this will leave you with one card marked ‘2’, three cards marked ‘3’ and several cards marked ‘1’. This is also important: make sure that you get the card marked ‘2’.

Now explain the meaning of the cards. Anyone with a number 3 can exchange their card for two chocolate bars. Anyone with a number 2 can exchange their card for 25 chocolate bars (or whatever number, when added to 6, equals the number of chocolate bars available, which should also be the number of students present plus one (for you). Ask the people with a 3 card to come forward and claim their chocolate. Explain to them that they can do what they want with the chocolate (although you might choose not to let them eat it during the lesson). Then ask who has got the number 2 card, eventually revealing yourself to be the lucky owner of the lion’s share of the chocolate. Make sure that you crow about your chocolate windfall, making a big play of the fact that most of the students have not won any chocolate at all.

Ask the people with 1 cards how they feel about the exercise. What was frustrating about it? Did they think it was fair? Admit that you fixed the distribution of the cards so that you were the winner. Do the students think that this was the only unfair element of the game? Would it have been fair for one person to have had all of the chocolate if they were randomly chosen? Emphasise the point that although it was unfair that you fixed the result, it would still have been unfair if the cards had randomly determined who got the bumper haul of chocolate.

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about fairness in the way people have access to the food they need for a healthy life.


Introduce the first clip from the film In Time (20th Century Fox, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that In Time tells the story of a world where time has literally become currency, as the first clip will demonstrate. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what life is like for Will (Justin Timberlake) and others like him.

  • Start time:       0.00.55 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.05.34
  • Clip length:     4 minutes and 39 seconds

The clip starts with the line, ‘I don’t have time; I don’t have time to worry about how it happened.’ It ends with Will walking away after his encounter with the payroll clerk at the factory where he works.

Ask the students for their first impressions about life for the working classes in the film. What makes their life so hard? What particular pressures and struggles do they face?

Now introduce a second clip from In Time. Will has rescued a millionaire (with over one hundred years on his arm) who was flashing his wealth in a rough bar. In this scene, they are laying low having escaped the attentions of the local ‘Minute men’ hoodlums. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what Henry (Will Bomer) reveals to Will about the system.

  • Start time:       0.10.25 (beginning of chapter 3 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.14.29
  • Clip length:     4 minutes and 4 seconds

The clip starts with Will muttering, ‘Damn it, damn it, damn it.’ It ends with Will taking a last drink from Henry’s hip flask and saying, ‘It does get better’.

Ask the students how the system makes sure that some people keep on dying. Why do they think the society in the film is organised in such a way when, as Henry says, there is more than enough and nobody has to die before their time? Draw out that Henry’s comments imply that the reason the poor are kept short of time is largely to satisfy the greed of the wealthy few who want to live forever at their expense. You might want to point out that, unlike in the film, many wealthy people today are shortening their own life expectancy by the over-consumption of food, meaning that our failure to fairly distribute food is a bad thing for rich and poor alike.

The obvious parallel from the film is wealth inequality. One consequence of wealth inequality that is worth particular focus is the related problem of food inequality. Even though there is enough food to feed every single person in the world, millions go hungry because of how that food is shared out. Many people cannot afford to buy the food they need, especially when food prices rise rapidly, as they did in 2007-2008 and again in 2011. Millions of people face a daily struggle to get enough food to eat, much like the struggle for time that Will and others like him face in the film In Time.

Read out the following supposed ‘facts’ about food distribution and ask the students to decide, working individually or in pairs, whether each one is true or false. Here are the facts. In some cases we have added some explanatory material [in square brackets]. These are not to be read out while students guess, but can be used afterwards as you go through the answers.

  • 925 million people (that’s nearly one billion – and more than the combined populations of the USA, Canada and the European Union countries) globally face hunger, with a further one billion lacking vital nutrients in their diet.
  • The world produces enough food to feed everyone.
  • Poverty (i.e. lack of money and access to resources) is the biggest cause of hunger and malnutrition.
  • One billion people are eating too much food – creating lots of health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Every hour of every day, 300 children die because they are poorly fed.
  • Five times as many years of healthy life are lost to poor nutrition than to malaria.
  • The UK consumes an average of 85kg of meat per person per year, whereas in India it’s just 3kg. [The low meat consumption in India is partly attributable to cultural and religious reasons. The real problem with the UK’s meat consumption is that meat and dairy foods require much more land and resources to produce, and the world cannot sustain everyone eating 85kg of meat annually.]
  • British families throw away 7.2million tonnes of household food waste – that’s enough to fill Wembley Stadium eight times over.
  • 98% of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries.
  • 70% of the world’s hungry people are smallholder farmers and people living in the countryside with no land.
  • Women produce about half of the world’s food but they own only about two percent of all land.
  • Adults who were malnourished as children earn at least 20% less on average than those who weren’t.
  • Increases in food prices hit the poor hardest, because they spend a greater proportion of their income on food. [In many developing regions, food accounts for half of average household spending; the average UK household spends 11.5% of income on food (15.8% in low income households). The world’s poorest people may spend up to 80% of their income on food – leaving little for other basic needs.]
  • Over 80% of the world’s population has no access to support (e.g. from the government, charities or insurance) to help them cope with rising food prices or bad harvests.

Go through the statements one by one, and reveal that in fact all of them are true. Ask the students for their reaction to the facts. Were there any that they found particularly surprising or shocking?

Before you examine a Bible passage with the students, explain some context of the passage. Although there is some dispute among scholars, it is traditionally believed that the prophet Isaiah was active during the second half of the eighth century BC, a time of great upheaval for Israel and a period where many, including Isaiah warned that Israel was failing to faithfully follow God and allowing itself to be compromised. With that in mind, ask the students to pay particular attention to what Isaiah’s words suggest about Israel’s mistake in relation to issues of poverty and food justice. Now read Isaiah 58:6-10 with the students.

Ask the students to summarise what the passage suggests about a Christian attitude to food justice issues. How do they think Isaiah would react to the facts you considered earlier in the lesson?

Explain that Christians believe that justice for the poor – particularly where food is concerned – is an issue close to God’s heart. This is reflected both in the actions of individual Christians, and in the actions of organisations with a Christian foundation. One such organisation is Christian Aid.

Ask the students to research Christian Aid’s work in this area and the Christian basis for it, using the following web pages:

Students should focus particularly on the role played by Christian values in shaping Christian Aid’s ethos, and on the practical ways that this is worked out in projects such as those in South Sudan that are detailed in the third of the listed webpages.


Ask the students to write a conversation between the prophet Isaiah and one or more of the characters from In Time. The dialogue should refer to the real life situation of food injustice in our world, rather than exclusively focusing on the fictional situation of the film, and should demonstrate understanding of the Christian basis for the work of organisations such as Christian Aid.


  • Chocolate cards handout, photocopied and cut up as detailed above.
  • One small chocolate bar for every student in the class, plus one (you).
  • A copy of the film In Time and the means to play it.
  • Bibles.

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