Fast Food Fanatic Project

There has been a lot of hype and a nation wide stirring about Fast Food over the past couple years thanks to movies like Super Size Me and Food, Inc.
Most recently Fast Food hit the news again as a photographer startled the world with pictures of “the indestructible happy meal” that looked exactly the same for over six months that it was on her shelf the only difference being that it was hard as a rock. So I ask my students to do a similar experiment decomposing fast food in my classroom window, make their own predictions, take pictures, and finally draw their own conclusions.


  • Students will analyze and evaluate the differences and similarities between two similar fast food items as they decay over the course of a semester.


  • Super Size Mevideo- “The Smoking Fry” experiment (found in extras)


Part 1: Prediction Paragraph

  • Which item do you predict will decompose the quickest?
  • Why do you think so?
  • How long will each item take to decompose?

Part 2: Observation Chart

  • At least once a week fill out your observation chart when you come to class
  • Every week take at least one picture

Part 3: Comparison

  • Choose one of the following methods to convey your comparison information:

o       Written

o       Video

o       Poster

  • Compare the following:

o       Nutrition Facts (find them on the restaurant’s websites)

o       Size/Weight

o       Portion Size (ex. Number of fries in each)

o       Price

o       Ingredients/Components (ex. 3 pickles on Big Mac; 5 on Five Guys)

  • Research the ingredients listed that you don’t know and find out why they are in the product (ex. shelf life, flavor, etc)

o       How appetizing/appealing the food looks right after you order it

o       How do they make or process the foods you chose? (research)

Part 4: Conclusion Paragraph

  • What conclusions can you draw from this experiment?
  • What did you learn? What is the take away message?
  • Which one is healthier? Why do you think so?
  • What findings surprised you?
  • What are the consequences of eating too much fast food?
  • Evaluate the nutrition facts about your item. What does the food guide say about your item?
  • What are the RDA’s of some of the nutrients?
  • What percentage of the RDA does this food take up?
  • What can you conclude about eating this food?


  • Each week students should weigh their fast food items in the container and take a picture of it. Depending on your school’s policy you may let them take pictures with their cell phones.
  • Have students present their findings in a formal presentation at the end of the experiment

Background for Teachers

  • Containers: send an email out to your the faculty and staff in your school asking for containers. Recycled pickle jars are excellent.
  • Keep the food on a shelf in your classroom with the lids on.
  • You must let the food breath to enable the food to decay. A couple times a week have the students open the jars briefly. If there are students allergic to mold open the jars outside.
  • This experiment did not stink up my classroom as some skeptical students and coworkers thought that it would. There was only one morning that a lid had popped off a jar because of the pressure that was building up inside that is why it is important to open the jars weekly.
  • You can also do this experiment with prepackaged things like cookies, Pop Tarts, Twinkies, Swiss Rolls, etc.

I decided to do this experiment along with my students but decaying a Pop tart and Twinkie. Three months into it they still smelled as fresh as the day I opened them! The apple pies in this picture didn’t decay too fast either. The Burger King slice of pie has yet to mold even though it lost a lot of water (condensation) the first month.


  • Team up with a biology teacher to analyze the different molds under the microscope.
  • Mold Identification
  • Food Mold


  • Why did some foods decay more than others?
  • Would the food decay any faster if it was just left out on the counter (no container)?
  • If cooked food kills pathogens why does food grow mold?




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