By: Willow Welter with Leanna Summers   |   Posted: October 12, 2017

The dinner table brings loved ones together, including those living in food insecurity.

What Families Eat Around the World

The dinner table brings loved ones together, including those living in food insecurity.

Written by Willow Welter with Leanna Summers
Photography by Orfa Cerrato & Tonny Tunya
A family it sitting around the table eating and talking
Food brings people together, and families living in poverty are no exception. Meet five children whose parents work hard to put food on the table but still can’t meet all their families’ needs. That’s where sponsors come in, filling the gap between hunger and enough.
A Nicaraguan family standing behind a table with their food for the day

NICARAGUA

Daniel, 10, lives in a rural Nicaraguan town with his grandparents. His brother, two cousins, aunt and uncle also live in the small home. On the table is one day’s worth of food for the family of eight: beans, cooking oil, rice, bread and pinolillo (a traditional Nicaraguan drink made from corn and cacao). Each morning, Daniel’s grandmother fries 2 pounds of rice, which will be shared among the family over three meals.

The ingredients for the meal cost $3.41 — no big deal on a typical U.S. income. But Daniel’s grandfather makes only $26.60 per week. Their town offers few job opportunities besides farming or fishing. Since most families who live here can’t afford fishing equipment or land, part of many workers’ meager income goes to renting a boat or farm. Daniel’s grandfather works someone else’s farm, milking cows and cleaning.

Because Daniel is sponsored through Compassion’s program, he gets meals at his church-run center. Like other sponsored kids around the world, he also receives health checkups, tutoring, Bible lessons, medicine and other benefits.

Family in Thailand sitting and eating a meal
Food on plates for a family in Thailand

THAILAND

Seven-year-old Borisut, right, eats breakfast with his parents and brother at their home in northern Thailand. The family recently began growing most of their food in their own garden, where they also catch crickets to fry for snacks. But Borisut remembers when their garden produced nothing because his parents had no time to tend it. As they labored on other people’s farms for low wages, their garden dried up. They had to spend their meager earnings to buy food from the market.

The church workers who run the Compassion program in Borisut’s community saw several families in similar situations: Although they were surrounded by lush land, they weren’t growing their own food on it. So the staff started a community garden and invited sponsored children’s families to participate in the growing and learning process.

Borisut’s parents were among those who learned to grow a thriving organic garden through a monthslong workshop. They had time to participate in the workshop because their regular work dwindles after harvest and during the rainy season.

Sponsored children eat from the community garden at the center, and sometimes enough food is left for them to take home for their families. But Borisut’s parents don’t need food from the center’s garden — they applied the skills they learned to revive their garden at home. The workshop expanded their farming knowledge by teaching them how to make their own compost and use it to grow an organic garden. They also learned how to rotate crops and reduce growing costs. Now Borisut’s grandmother helps care for the garden while his parents are at work, and his family has much more food security than before.

Undernutrition contributes to about one-third of all child deaths.

An Indonesian family sitting around a table and eating a meal

INDONESIA

Agnes Janu Dwi Widiyanti, a sponsored 11-year-old on the island of Java, joins her parents and grandmother at their dinner table. On the table is the food they have to eat for the week, including rice, tempeh, tofu, catfish, eggplant, vegetables, beans, chili sauce and soup. The family spent about 140,000 rupiah, about $10.55, for the groceries.

Imagine spending 55 percent of your income on groceries alone. That’s what life is like for Agnes’ father, Agustinus, who makes about $19 a week as a carpenter at a wood mill. That leaves little left over for other everyday expenses, not to mention emergencies that might arise. Because a church in Agnes’ village partners with Compassion, Agnes attends a center where she receives assistance with the needs her father cannot meet. Agnes’ sponsor provides confidence to the family that they will be supported throughout her childhood.

A Philippine family eating a meal

THE PHILIPPINES

Jasper, a sponsored 6-year-old, shares his small lunch with five other people in his family in Benguet City, Philippines. He eats steamed rice and a few green beans. For dinner they will eat any rice that is left over.

In the Philippines, chronic undernutrition has fallen but remains a big problem. Stunting and deficiencies of iodine and iron affect learning abilities and intelligence. Often the damage is irreversible, reducing children’s chances of finishing school and gaining steady employment as adults. About 3.6 million children under 5 are underweight, and 4 million are stunted, according to UNICEF.

Compassion sponsors and donors help reduce hunger among children. Our church partners provide nutrition counseling and groceries to pregnant women and parents of young children in the Child Survival Program. Older sponsored children receive nutritious meals at their church-run centers. And struggling families receive individualized help from the church, including food rations when needed.

A young girl helps prepare ingredients for her family's meal

BURKINA FASO

Nine-year-old Alimatou helps prepare ingredients for bag-benda, a sauce made from sorrel, a bitter leafy plant that tastes like tart strawberries. It is often cooked with oil and hot peppers and served with tô, one of the most common meals eaten in Burkina Faso. The staple dish consists of millet or cornmeal dough shaped into cakes or balls and cooked.

Roughly 20 percent of Burkina Faso’s population lives in food insecurity. Since about 90 percent of Burkinabe people work as subsistence farmers, their livelihood depends on climate uncertainties such as drought and floods that can cause food shortages. So the food served at Alimatou’s Compassion center greatly reduces the burden on her family.