Paint Your Plate Lesson Plan Grade 3 Where Do Our Vegetables and Fruit Come From

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Minds on

Initiate a classroom discussion to get students thinking about how vegetables and fruit are grown and the journey they take from where they are grown to our plate.

Note to teachers

The goal of this lesson is to have students understand where the vegetables and fruit they eat come from; where (and how) they are grown and harvested, and whether and how it is processed, transported, sold, or prepared. Locally grown produce may be highlighted in terms of advantages and disadvantages to the environment and the local economy.

Key messages to share with students

  • Vegetables and fruit can be eaten directly from the plant, tree or ground after they are cleaned/rinsed/peeled (e.g. peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.). They can also be changed into a different form at home or in a factory/processing plant (e.g. turn apples into applesauce).
  • Foods can be processed to help them last longer and not spoil quickly. Food processing can also make foods more convenient and easier to access when not in season.
  • Many foods need some type of processing/preparation to make them more edible (e.g. wheat milled to flour that is used to make/bake bread)
  • Food processing may involve adding salt, fat and/or sugar to foods to help preserve them.
  • The processing of food in factories and the transportation of the food from the factory can impact their nutrient content and the environment (e.g. air and water pollution, extra garbage from packaging, etc.).

Dig Deeper

Ontario-grown vegetables and fruit

Why buy local?

Teacher prompts

“Where do vegetables and fruit come from? What is needed to make sure they grow properly (e.g., soil quality, weather, etc.)?”

“Where can we find local vegetables and fruit (e.g., our own garden, farmers markets, farms close to us, at the grocery store – look for signs that state where the vegetables and fruit come from)?”

“Processing may change the form of a food, but there are other changes. Think of other changes that can happen when a food is processed (e.g. other ingredients might be added such as sugar, salt and fat, the taste and texture might be changed, etc.).”


Option 1: Plant a garden

Students can grow herbs, beans or other plants in your classroom. Discuss the life cycle of plants, the properties of soil and how different plants are grown. Use the activities for grade 3 in Seeds to Success Hamilton’s School Garden Kit. Check out the Green Thumb badge page for more edible school garden ideas.

Option 2: Find out where students’ favourite vegetables and fruits come from. 

Ask students if they have ever thought about where their food originates from. Emphasize that you don’t mean which grocery store but which country or region.

  • Gather grocery store flyers from various grocery stores. Collect enough for each student or each pair of students.
  • Instruct students to find different fresh fruits or vegetables within the flyer and identify which country the vegetable or fruit is from. The country of origin is always listed just below the name of the fruit or vegetable.
  • Take out a world map and name a country. Ask students if they found a vegetable and/or fruit that is from this country. Place a sticky note on the country and write down all the different vegetables and fruit that students name. Alternatively, ask students to write or draw the names of the fruit or vegetable on sticky notes and put them on the map where they grow.
  • Discuss why Canada purchases vegetables and fruit from different countries and explore which vegetables and fruit are grown here in Ontario.  Check out the Foodland Ontario Availability Guide.

Option 3: Field trip to a local farm

Take the class to visit a local farm to learn what and how foods are grown locally. Return to the classroom and discuss the experience. What types of vegetables and/or fruit were grown on this farm? How were they grown? What did we learn from the farmer? Where can we buy the produce grown on this farm?

If an in-person field trip is not possible, explore a virtual Canadian farm or Ontario Farm.

Curriculum connections

Grade 3. D1. Understanding Health Concepts D1.1 Food origins, processing, and environmental impact

Demonstrate an understanding of how the origins of food (e.g., where the food is grown, harvested, trapped, fished, or hunted; whether and how it is processed or prepared) affect its nutritional value and how those factors and others (e.g., the way we consume and dispose of food) can affect the environment.

Reference: The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8, Health and Physical Education, 2019

Grade 3. B1.3 Assess the benefits and limitations of locally grown food B.2.1 Describe the basic needs of plants, including the need for air, water, light, heat, nutrients, and space, and identify environmental conditions that may threaten plant survival

Reference: The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8, Science and Technology, 2022

(reviewed and revised Dec 2023)