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Big fat juicy snails - yum!

To increase children’s understanding of people’s need for fair access to food.

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To increase children’s understanding of people’s need for fair access to food.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a tin of edible snails (available from delicatessens).
  • Optional: An opaque bag containing sweets – important that their size and shape seen through the bag could suggest chunks of giant snail meat, e.g. pineapple chunk sweets or something similar.
  • Your school may have African land snails in the classrooms. If you don’t, ask around, as producing a live snail has a wonderful ‘yuck’ factor.

Assembly

  1. Introduce the theme of food. Ask the children to guess what foods you are describing:
    Cold, creamy, sweet, great in summer, sometimes comes in a cone – ice cream.
    Dark or light brown, sometimes white, comes in bars, most people love it – chocolate.
    Good meat and tastes sweet …

    Those children who eat meat will probably have suggestions. Accept them all, but then explain that this is a direct quote from a 14-year-old boy in the African country of Ghana. Ask the children to guess the animal he’s talking about from the following clues:

    It has no legs.
    Lives on the land.
    It has a hard protective shell.
    Its name rhymes with a type of bird beginning with Q … quail … snail!

    Allow for the expected expressions of revulsion.

    Optional: Then say that you have some snail meat here, would anyone like to try it? Produce the bag of sweets from your pocket and offer them round, enjoying the joke if someone is brave enough to put their hand in the bag and pull one out.
  2. Show the tinned snails and explain that many people consider snails a great delicacy, particularly in France and in the most expensive restaurants in this country. Use this as an opportunity to explore the idea that not everyone likes the same things to eat and that we often find other people’s tastes strange just because it is not what we’re used to. You could mention any particular food dislikes of your own and ask children to share theirs.

    If you have live snails, this is the point to get one out and put it on your hand. Leave it there while you tell the story, as it will emerge from its shell, and the children can see the size. Make a point of cleaning your hand afterwards.

    (It is important here to avoid any feeling that snails are ‘OK for poor people in poor countries’ who can’t get ‘proper’ food. Explain that there is no such thing as ‘proper’ food and that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ or, in a more modern version, ‘one person’s delicious steak is a vegetarian’s murdered animal’!)
  3. Tell the story of how Gideon and Timothy in Ghana came to be eating snail meat.

    Gideon is 11 and his best friend is Timothy, who is 14. They live in a village in Ghana, which is a country in Africa. The boys’ families are farmers. They used to grow cassava and maize, but a few years ago, their landlord said everyone would have to pay more for the land. Gideon’s dad, Moses, and Timothy’s dad, Mathias, couldn’t afford to pay. So the landlord took their land, and sold some of it to a big company that grew pineapples. The families could no longer grow food for themselves. They didn’t have enough money to buy food. Gideon and Timothy had to stop going to school because they couldn’t pay the fees. They were very unhappy.

    Then they heard about the Development Action Association (DAA), which had an unusual idea to help people get the food they needed. The DAA showed people how to breed giant African land snails. It has a ‘snail bank’, and Moses was given 168 snails. These snails can grow to be as long as 20cm! Once his snails had produced lots of baby snails, Moses gave some back to the snail bank so someone else could start snail farming.

    Timothy’s dad Mathias also keeps snails now. Timothy says, ‘Before, we could not always get food. Now we can eat snails every day. It is good meat and tastes sweet.’

    Gideon and Timothy help to look after the snails. Gideon says, ‘I feed the snails, water them, sweep the room and wash their feeding trays. They help our family get money and they taste nice.’ Sometimes the boys help to collect the snails ready to sell at market.

    Gideon and Timothy are looking forward to the future. Timothy wants to be a taxi driver when he grows up, but Gideon can’t decide. Perhaps he will be a snail farmer, or drive a lorry, or, best of all, be a footballer!
  4. Timothy and Gideon would never have dreamed of eating snails if the Development Action Association hadn’t come along with a new and clever idea. All over the world people are finding new ways to live. We’re having to find some ourselves too, because of climate change. When the boys’ families lost their land they needed to find a new idea but was it fair that the land was taken from them in the first place?

Time for reflection

Reflection

Think about those snails.

Does it seem strange to you to eat snail meat?

Can you see that some of the things that you eat will seem strange to people in other countries?

Many British people eat sausages, which people in some other countries think are awful.

Many people around the world eat meat, while vegetarians and vegans find it hard to even think of eating dead animals!

Is it important to you that everyone in the world has enough to eat and is treated fairly?

If appropriate, include these short readings:

The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. (Isaiah 58.6–7)

If you see an evil action, change it with your hand, if you are not able to do this, then with your tongue, if you are not able to do it, then with your heart. (Muslim Hadith)

This world is the home of God. He dwells in all things. One should only take what one needs and leave the rest for others, because it really all belongs to God. (Hindu Isa Upanishad)

Prayer

I think of all the food that I can enjoy.

I think of people who don’t have enough food.

Dear God, help us all to make your world a fairer place.

Amen.

Song/music

This is best if practised with a group of children beforehand, but could probably be done from scratch. Sing to the tune of ‘The Farmer’s in his Den’, and add in appropriate actions.

1 The farmer’s in his field

The farmer’s in his field

E – I – E – I

The farmer’s in his field.

2 The farmers grow their crops …

3 They have to leave the land …

4 It’s hard to find food …

5 They start to farm some snails …

6 There’s now more food to eat …

7 God help us all to care

God help us all to share

E – I – E – I

God help us to be fair.

Publication date: October 2008   (Vol.10 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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