By: Catherine Ryan   |   Posted: October 13, 2022

We asked children in Compassion’s program to tell us some of their favorite foods to eat. Here’s what they said!

Kids’ Favorite Foods Around the World

We asked children in Compassion’s program to tell us some of their favorite foods to eat. Here’s what they said!

Written by Catherine Ryan
Reporting and photos by Odessa B, Nora Diaz, Edwin Estioko, Lina Marcela Alarcón Molina, Isaac Ogila, Kevin Ouma, Juana Ordonez Martinez and Fernando Sinacay
a boy eats a meal

Food! It’s part of our daily life and directly impacts our quality of life. The essential vitamins and minerals found in healthy fruits and vegetables allow our bodies to grow strong physically and mentally. They give us energy to learn, work, play and fight disease.

What we eat says a lot about our culture too. Kids’ favorite foods in different countries around the world range from injera in Ethiopia to arepas in Colombia, from pupusas in El Salvador to adobo in the Philippines. One child’s favorite foods may be unheard of to another child!

In the United States, little ones often ask for cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, grilled cheese, chicken tenders, hot dogs with ketchup, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tacos or macaroni and cheese. When trying to put together an easy dinner for picky eaters on a weeknight, parents might microwave a cheesy tortilla or put together some chicken quesadillas.

In some countries where Compassion works, the basic ingredients in kids’ favorite foods aren’t all that different from these popular foods in the U.S. But family traditions, cultural diversity and the cost and availability of food all play big roles in what kids eat around the world. So you can learn a lot about a child from their favorite food!

We thought we’d ask some children in Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, “What are your favorite foods to eat?”

Here’s what they had to share.

a girl holds a basket of vegetables

Jane in Kenya: Mchicha

Jane in Kenya helps her family grow mchicha (also called amaranth) in their garden. The relatively new spinach-like leafy green is considered a superfood and is now harvested abundantly in Kenya and Tanzania. “It is good food for my body and very easy to plant,” Jane explains.

a boy holds a bowl of food

Josué in El Salvador: Pupusas

Compassion child development centers encourage children to eat healthy vegetables by incorporating them into their favorite traditional meals. In El Salvador, children like 6-year-old Josué enjoy pupusas (corn masa flour pockets) stuffed with shredded carrots, squash and other green leaves that contain iron.

Family Favorite Recipe: Bean and Cheese Pupusas

a girl holds a plate of food

Angel in the Philippines: Buchi

Angel in the Philippines holds a plate of buchi, which is a rice snack. Her mother cooks and sells buchi to help provide for her children, but it’s also one of Angel’s favorite foods.

a boy eats his food

Yomel in Peru: Salad and Potatoes

In Peru, Yomel eats a plate of salad and potatoes. His family grew the food at their home with vegetable seeds they received from Yomel’s child development center.

a girl smiles as she eats

Theresa in Sri Lanka: Dosai

Children registered in our program typically get a healthy meal or snack each time they attend activities at their child development centers. Theresa in Sri Lanka sits down at her local center to one of her favorite meals: dosai (a thin pancake made from a fermented batter of lentils and rice), lentil curry and coconut chutney.

a boy eats his food

Marcos in Colombia: Spaghetti

Sometimes a child’s favorite meal isn’t necessarily traditional to their country. Marcos in Colombia eats spaghetti at his child development center. The center director, Martha, says that it’s one of the children’s favorite foods. “They always want another portion,” she explains.

“Some of them come to my office to ask for another serving of food, and I always say yes.”

a boy sits in his doorway and eats

Axel in Honduras: Red Beans with Sour Cream

Axel eats a bowl of red beans with sour cream in front of his home in Honduras. It’s one of his favorite foods. “I also like my mother’s spaghetti and the center’s stewed chicken and rice,” he says.

Nutrition: Why It’s Important

Despite the importance of eating a balanced diet, 149 million children under age 5 have stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of nutritious food in their diets. And food insecurity rose in 2020 and 2021, with 11.7 percent of the global population facing food insecurity at severe levels.

Effects of the pandemic, extreme weather and conflicts have led to the most severe food shortage the world has seen since World War II — and children living in poverty are the hardest hit. Our church partners see every day how hunger is harming children, stunting their development and keeping them from their full potential.

Feeding nutritious foods to children in our program is more important now than ever. The cooks at our child development centers around the world work hard to ensure children are eating nutrient-dense foods. Meals at child development centers often include fresh veggies, such as leafy greens, sweet potatoes and whole grains.

Learn more about the global food crisis and how you can join Compassion and our local church partners in responding.