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5. Grocery store field trip to Kalustyans

Activity Description

This activity is a field trip to a spice shop. We chose to model this based on a trip to Kalustyans, on 28th and Lexington Ave. It has hundreds of spices in packages that are often labeled with the scientific name of the plant and they include some uses as well. 

The activity is meant to raise student awareness about food access  on two levels. First, what type of role in communities do food stores play? Second, does access to diverse foods mean more opportunity for health or the medicinal benefits or even cultural benefits of food? What might we mean by this? What exactly is food diversity?

Most any grocery store that focuses on ethnic food items should work for this activity. You may need to modify the questions to fit the new store.

Estimated Time of Activity

2 hours (or 1 hr 45 min; time estimate based on being only a few blocks from the field trip site. You may need more time depending on your grocery store destination)

Activity Objectives

Students will be able do the following as a result of the activity:

  1. Differentiate between a tea and a tonic, and know how spices can be used as medicine
  2. Recognize that not all sold foods are FDA approved, and begin to understand the potency of some foods and the risks of using the wrong plant part or wrong species
  3. assess any local food provider in a neighborhood through a psychological perspective including the business' intentional goals  based on the layout of the store, prices, and items for sale.


Activity Prerequisites

Spend about 10 minutes briefing the class on the goals of the field trip. Write the questions down on the board and have students write them in their notebooks so they know what to answer while at the store for their assignment. 

Students write down...

1. Describe the layout of the store and why do you think it was designed that way?

2. Compare this store to an ordinary grocery store. How do they differ and how might they both serve their communities?

3. Find and list two plants used for each of the following categories. Please write both the common name and the scientific name where possible. Categories are:  tea, tonic, blood purifier, help prevent tummy ache, help with sleep or to calm you down, help with beauty/aesthetic.

4. Estimate how many VARIETIES of rice are sold in the store.

5. BONUS: find the fermented garlic. Does it have any health beneficial function listed? (this one is tricky) 


Activity Instructions

  1. Give students preactivity questions, make sure they are clear that this is a scavenger hunt-style assignment when they get in the store.
  2. Walk to Kalustyans on 28th and Lexington
  3. Before entering, explain that students must be careful to not be in the way of customers, and must be well-behaved, and that we will warn them 5 minutes in advance of departure that if they want to purchase anything, they should do it then.
  4. Let students go through the store, but make rounds around the store and check that they are on task and help them if they need it. The staff are also very helpful there.
  5. Bring students back to the classroom
  6. Wrap-up with a 20 minute discussion of the answers to their scavenger hunt questions. In this discussion, ask about incentive to learn about new foods, and ask what they thought of the "FDA not FDA approved" labels. Steer the conversation to highlight the health benefits of foods, especially spices, and that 70% of our food crop species are used as medicine somewhere.


Collect the students' answers from the activity and assign them full credit if they were all answered.


(Described earlier in preactivity)


Just need a grocery store nearby that suits the activity, or a means of transportation to Kalustyans. You also need to have a blackboard or something to write instructions for the class on.


Instructor’s Notes

Here is the Kalustyans website to learn more about the store location and its content: