For image of Alex

Hi, I’m Alex. Our food technology teacher is running a competition. We have to prepare a meal for four people. Sounds simple, but there are some rules. The meal must:

  • include one carbohydrate and one protein item

  • be based on sustainable food choices

  • cost no more than the given budget.

Join the challenge by helping to:

  • explore ecosystems and understand the science of growing food sustainably

  • choose the menu items, considering financial, sustainability and other factors.

I’ve asked my friend Asmina to help too. She’s a real foodie and will be a great team member. We’ve already decided on the protein for our meal!

Here’s our eco-menu conversation. View Transcript of eco-menu conversation.

Help us investigate information about ecosystems further in the next section.


We need to know about ecosystems as background information and here is what we know already:

  • the further along the food chain, the more energy is lost

  • all life on earth is called the biosphere, which is made up of lots of ecosystems grouped together in biomes.

Let’s investigate further by looking more closely at the biomass pyramid and the natural ecosystem and the agricultural ecosystem and then we can see if we pass the quiz.

Test your understanding in the Ecosystem quiz. Alternative: Ecosystem quiz (.pdf 109kB)


Alex looking left holding right arm up, bent at the elbow

We have a better understanding now of the considerations behind buying sustainable ingredients. We have listed requirements for ourselves.

We have decided on this list of requirements for our challenge after researching ecosystems:

  • the ingredients for the menu need to come from a natural ecosystem or a

    well managed agricultural ecosystem

  • to avoid mass produced and processed foods and rely on those from community gardens if possible

  • to investigate the nearby farmers’ market with its organic section, where the food is grown without added chemicals such as pesticides and artificial fertilisers that get into the waterways

  • to consider sustainable fish with little by-catch and damage to the sea floor.

  • to try to use home grown vegies so we can recycle by feeding scraps to the neighbour’s chooks thereby making everything closer to natural ecosystems

  • the more of these fresh vegies in the meal, the better.

  • to track our spending while making sustainable shopping choices which impact on the future of the environment.

We have each taken a task before going to the markets to buy the ingredients. See how well you understand these topics …

  1. choosing the best sustainable seafood using Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide

  2. considering some of the factors involved in making choices. Alternative: Factors (.pdf 124kB)

  3. identifying the links between spendingwithin a budget and sustainable shopping.

Now test your understandings in the Food production quiz. Alternative: Food production quiz (.pdf 108kB)

At the markets

Now that we have explored the ecosystems, discussed the factors and thought about our requirements, it’s time to make some choices.

Firstly we need to choose which seafood and then the main carbohydrate vegetable. Comparing prices of products of different sizes can be confusing. The unit pricing code will help you decide on the best value.

Choose your seafood by completing the Sustainable seafood activity. Alternative: Sustainable seafood (.pdf 194kB)

Select your vegetable by completing the activity, Choose your carbohydrate. Alternative: Choose your carbohydrate (.pdf 135kB)

Alex and Asmina meet to finalise the menu. View Transcript of menu conversation.

Alex and Asmina can choose a whole new food type to add in.They really need a green vegetable to balance their menu. They’ll need to consider all the implications they did when choosing their fish and the sweet potatoes.

What would you choose? Your task is to research and then decide on the best option for a green vegetable to add to their menu.


  • production

    • type – organic, hydroponic, commercial, market gardens, vertical gardens

    • seasonal availability

    • labour and equipment costs

  • packaging

    • sustainability, including costs and impact

    • freshness and shelf life

  • transport

    • food miles

    • refrigeration

  • nutritional value

  • budget and comparative pricing.

After you have determined your best option, report back to your classmates justifying your decision.

Your budget, your choices

Think back on what you have learned about the factors that might influence your choices when buying food. These factors could be both financial and environmental and might be different for individuals depending on such things as living arrangements, dietary constraints, lifestyle choices and beliefs.

If you were planning a dinner meal in your home this evening what factors would influence your food choices?

  1. Make a list of the factors, challenges and strategies that would impact on your food choices.

  2. Consider whether your budget will be determined by your choices and context, or, whether your choices will be determined by your budget. Write discussion points to justify your position.

  3. Use your points as a guide to share your conclusions.


In working through this resource, you have:

  • compared agricultural, urban ecosystems and balanced natural ecosystems

  • deepened understanding of how the food we eat relates to sustainability

  • developed skills to choose sustainably produced food

  • outlined how food transport, packaging and processing impacts on food sustainability

  • described factors in human management of marine environments that influence the sustainability of seafood harvests

  • evaluated benefits of choosing sustainably produced food.

Discuss the following with your classmates, friends or family:

  • What factors influence peoples’ decisions when purchasing food?

  • How are your lifestyle choices impacted by your financial situation?

  • How important is it to be an informed consumer?

  • What are other ways to reduce our ecological footprint?

  • How do your individual decisions affect others in your family, community and the world?

Teaching notes

The information below supports the implementation of My eco-kitchen rules, a resource for Science Year 9.


My eco-kitchen rules is an investigative challenge based on popular reality television programs where individuals compete to plan, cook and present meals. In this scenario-based resource students plan a meal while considering budget and sustainability of food production, processing and transport. The resource will assist students to develop their understanding of natural, balanced ecosystems and to decide which agricultural and fishing practices are more sustainable. Students will also develop consumer and financial knowledge and understandings that will assist them to make informed sustainable choices.

The resource can be completed as a whole class, in small groups or individually, with teacher direction and as an independent homework task. It can be tailored to suit individual class needs and abilities, with some students requiring more teacher support.

While the resource presents a scenario, this could be adapted for real-world situations where a school or other community organisation is planning a dinner or food-based fundraiser.

Display the Outcomes tab to read how this resource links to the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework and to the Australian Curriculum.

Display the Activities tab to read a description of each section in the resource, along with suggestions for class or group discussions and important points to bring to students’ attention in order to support their learning and make the context more authentic and relevant.


Note: the student learnings in the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework (.pdf 6.9MB) are divided into, and are applicable over, bands covering two chronological years. The Year 10 band covers both Years 9 and 10.

Year 10

Knowledge and Understanding

  • Analyse and explain the range of factors affecting consumer choices


  • Analyse relevant information to make informed choices when purchasing goods and services and/or resolve consumer choices

Responsibility and Enterprise

  • Appreciate that there is often no one right answer in making financial decisions because these depend on individual circumstances preferences and values

Biological sciences

  • ACSSU176 – Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems

    • Students research the impact of abiotic components and farming practices.

Use and influence of science

  • ACSHE160 – People can use scientific knowledge to evaluate whether they should accept claims, explanations or predictions

    • Students analyse, discuss and make informed decisions about the reliability of claims about food items.


  • ACSIS172 – Critically analyse the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems

    • Students analyse information to make informed decisions.

This unit of work contributes to the bolded sections in the following aspects of the Achievement Standard in Science for Year 9.

By the end of Year 9, students explain chemical processes and natural radioactivity in terms of atoms and energy transfers and describe examples of important chemical reactions. They describe models of energy transfer and apply these to explain phenomena. They explain global features and events in terms of geological processes and timescales. They analyse how biological systems function and respond to external changes with reference to interdependencies, energy transfers and flows of matter. They describe social and technological factors that have influenced scientific developments and predict how future applications of science and technology may affect people’s lives.

Students design questions that can be investigated using a range of inquiry skills. They design methods that include the control and accurate measurement of variables and systematic collection of data and describe how they considered ethics and safety. They analyse trends in data, identify relationships between variables and reveal inconsistencies in results. They analyse their methods and the quality of their data, and explain specific actions to improve the quality of their evidence. They evaluate others’ methods and explanations from a scientific perspective and use appropriate language and representations when communicating their findings and ideas to specific audiences.

Literacy – Students access the vocabulary of consumer and financial literacy, ecology and sustainability while they read, view and discuss the challenges.

Numeracy – Students become more numerate as they develop the knowledge and skills to use mathematics in the context of their challenges. This helps students to recognise and understand the role of mathematics in the world and have the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully.

ICT – Students engage with multimodal technology to solve problems in the context of financial literacy.

Critical and creative thinking – Students critically analyse the processes occurring in sustainable, natural ecosystems and apply their understanding to food purchases.

Personal and social capability – By developing financial literacy skills, students are adding to their personal and social capability. They engage with real-world learning activities that will assist them to make informed consumer decisions and to understand the consequences of these decisions for them, their families and for the environment.

Ethical understanding – Ethical understanding underpins the motivation to make sustainable choices, in this case, relating to food choices and awareness of the influence that their values and behaviours have on others.

Intercultural understanding – As students make their own food choices they are made aware of many other cultural factors that might influence choice.

Sustainability — Sustainability provides a rich, engaging and authentic context in which students can explore the concepts involved with financial literacy. They are opened to the idea that sustainability and financial responsibility are often very closely related both for individuals and society in general.


The headings below relate to the sections within this resource. Expand each one to read a description of the section content, along with suggestions for class or group discussions and important points to bring to students’ attention in order to support their learning and make the context more authentic and relevant.

The suggested marking rubric (.pdf 92kB) addresses student assessment relating to the Australian Curriculum Content Descriptors — Science Year 9.

Students are introduced to the characters Alex and his friend Asmina who are food tech students competing in a competition called My eco-kitchen rules to produce an environmentally sustainable meal for four people. It must include one carbohydrate and one protein and be within budget. Alex and Asmina discuss the constraints on their choices and reflect that sustainable food relates to what they have learnt about ecosystems in science. They will need to consider the difference between natural, balanced ecosystems and agricultural ecosystems.

Alex and Asmina realise that their protein choice should be something that most people can eat and that is readily available. Discuss their choice with students. You may wish to discuss cultural dietary restrictions. Where appropriate you could use the resource as a model to consider other protein sources and their environmental impact.

Lead a class discussion about sustainability. Ask students to consider sustainable ways of obtaining food, including hunting and gathering. Consider the viability, given the world population and related food demands.

At a more personal level, choosing food sources that are sustainable may come at a cost:

  • selection may be limited as some items may not be seasonally available

  • many items are fresh and will have a restricted shelf life or may be more expensive

  • more food preparation may be required.

Discuss the following questions with students:

  • What is the relationship between the cost of food and sustainable choices?

  • Should cost be a factor when choosing sustainable options?

  • What is the impact of global economic issues on making sustainable food choices?

Throughout the following activities students will be asked to explore websites, conduct research and gather information. Encourage students to analyse the sources of the information and make informed decisions about the reliability of claims. Students could discuss whether they think sites they visit are reliable sources for information and give evidence for their belief.

Students could discuss aspects that contribute to individual’s ecological footprints and then complete an online survey to determine their own ecological footprint. Notice that one of the first choices is about the consumption of animals in our diet. Talk with students to determine how their lifestyle might impact on the planet and small changes they could make to reduce their footprint. Discuss such things as food wastage, food type and food miles. Students could also consider how family and community finances are impacted if their ecological footprint is reduced.

Natural, balanced ecosystems are sustainable because of their biodiversity, and the complex interactions between the biotic and abiotic factors.

Students could complete a case study of an aquatic ecosystem in preparation for a later discussion about the impact of fishing methods.

Students could be directed to the Australian Bureau of Statistics for factors relating to the progress and health of Australia’s marine ecosystems.

Students could also view photographs of Australian marine plants, part of a larger ABC resource Explore the Seafloor.

Issues associated with agricultural ecosystems could be discussed. Highlight the economic advantages and disadvantages of each system. Students could view the short videos Growing an organic edible garden and Insect pests vs their natural predators.

Ecosystem—Responses and feedback (.pdf 119kB) contains answers to the Ecosystem quiz along with feedback on each question. This can be a handy reference for teachers or used to check student responses when completing the PDF version of the quiz.

Extension: Students watch and discuss the video The battle over Genetically Modified food.

This activity focuses on a range of factors that may influence food purchases or choices. Students explore factors such as by-catch, habitat destruction and pollution and the sustainability of different methods of obtaining seafood. Use the Sustainable Seafood Guide to assist students to make informed seafood choices.

Factors—Responses and feedback (.pdf 125kB) promotes further discussion and provides answers to the questions about the three people, Sofia, Jemma and Josh, chosen to be profiled.

Food miles are another factor influencing food choices. Students can read The distance food travels and Food miles and discuss questions such as:

Why do you think the food miles campaign has not been strongly supported in Australia?

Do you think that reducing food miles would destroy Australia’s food industry and economy? Why or why not?

Use My Recipe Calculator to calculate the cost of a recipe on a per person basis.

Food production quiz—Responses and feedback (.pdf 110kB) contains answers to the Food production quiz in which students test their understandings.

In this activity students consider two food choice scenarios. They choose between three types of seafood and between organic, hydroponic and commercially grown kumara. Students also calculate the cost to ensure they meet $30 budget restriction.

The first two topics from the unit pricing code will assist students in their product choices.

Choose your carbohydrate—Responses and feedback (.pdf 118kB) and Sustainable seafood—Responses and feedback (.pdf 98kB) provide answers to the two quizzes in this section.

In the Choose a third menu item activity students apply their understanding of sustainable food production and buying within an allocated budget to select another food item as part of their menu. Students then complete a task to design a multimedia persuasive argument supporting their choice of sustainable food items. In this presentation they should:

  • use appropriate scientific terminology to explain the impact of factors such as food miles, production methods, preservation, processing and packaging on food choices

  • demonstrate how scientific understanding can support consumers to evaluate claims and make informed choices relating to food choices.

Presentations could be made to the whole class, a small group of classmates or could be submitted to the teacher. Students should be encouraged to use a range of mediums to present their findings and convince their intended audience. The presentation could be a:

Students complete Your budget your choices considering personal factors that might influence their own choices when buying food. Applying their learning to their own financial and life style situation students consider whether their budgets are determined by their choices and context, or, whether their choices will be determined by their budget.

It is important that students understand that this might be different for each individual in their unique situation.

This topic could be organised as a debate, small group or class discussion.

It is important that students reflect on their learning. Five discussion questions are included to facilitate this reflection. Other questions may be relevant to individual classroom settings.