The global food diary

Four families from Guatemala, India, the Philippines and Zambia agreed to describe what their meals include for one day. Lindsey Quinn, staff writer at Children International in Kansas City, Missouri, decided to share her family’s daily meals, too. The differences are striking. Read our global food diary to learn more.

Breakfast: See how our kids started the day.

No time for breakfast? Skip to lunch!

Breakfast — Quezon City, Philippines

We start our day with sponsored child Christine’s family in Quezon City, Philippines.

Here, her little brother, Elandro, eats a bowl of rice for breakfast. The family of six normally shares a few cups of coffee and leftover rice — the kids dip the rice into the drink, so they don’t miss a drop.

Breakfast — Kolkata, India

Sponsored child Moina enjoys her breakfast in a Kolkata slum.

She’s eating puffed rice — called muri in Bengali – combined with chanchur, a snack mix that may include fried lentils, peanuts, chickpea flour noodles, corn, vegetable oil, chickpeas, flaked rice, fried onion and curry leaves. Moina’s breakfast is seasoned with a little salt and a blend of spices.

Breakfast — Kansas City, MO

In this photo, my daughter Nora eats a few ounces of cheddar cheese, some slices from a Granny Smith apple and her father is spoon-feeding a “squeezie” of Greek yoghurt combined with certified organic cherry and corn puree.

Nora only ate a few bites of her breakfast — so we saved the apple slices, ate the cheese, and threw away the yoghurt. She then devoured some fruit snacks. Sigh.

Breakfast — Lusaka, Zambia

We visit Lusaka, Zambia, for our next breakfast.

Here, sponsored child Tebeshi‘s mother washes sweet potatoes. They will be cooked and then served plain for breakfast. While sweet potatoes are a nutritious and affordable dish, they are also seasonal. When available, most poor Zambian families eat them for breakfast. When out of season, the meal is typically skipped because alternatives are too expensive.

Breakfast — Rural Guatemala

Our last breakfast is from a family in rural Guatemala. This busy family of seven normally eats tortillas with salt for breakfast. The kids dip the tortillas into a cup of extremely weak coffee.

Lunch: This midday meal is an important one for children. In some countries, this may also be the last meal of the day.

Don't want lunch? Why not have a snack?

Lunch — Quezon City, Philippines

Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? This chicken adobo is a favorite of our family in Quezon City. Made of “pagpag” — chicken scavenged from dumpsters, washed and resold — this dish is a special treat.

The family is concerned about getting pagpag also called “garbage chicken,” in the future. Pagpag has been banned in their district for its obvious health risks, but the family doesn’t know how else to get protein like this without spending too much.

Lunch — Kolkata, India

Lunchtime in Kolkata is a vegetarian meal for sponsored child Moina. She eats plain rice with a preparation of potatoes, onions and pointed gourd.

Moina’s meal is eaten in her family of four’s cramped one-room home.

U.S. baby eats popsicle for lunch

Lunch — Kansas City, MO

In Kansas City, my daughter ate a popsicle. Yes, a popsicle. She wasn’t particularly hungry for lunch, so she had a tropical mini-popsicle and then half an apple for lunch.

It’s not shown in these photos, but Nora also drank about 20 ounces of antibiotic-free whole milk during the course of the day.

Lunch — Lusaka, Zambia

Tebeshi and her little cousin, Mariah, share a plate of nshima, greens and a relish made from kapenta, a type of freshwater sardine. The nshima itself is thick porridge made from corn meal; it is a staple in the Zambian diet. The type of relish you eat with the nshima shows your family’s economic status — relish made from kapenta is something the poorest families use.

Lunch — Rural Guatemala

Our family in Guatemala struggles to put food on the table. One way of sharing a little with a lot is soup. For lunch today, the family eats a clear soup with some herbs and a few vegetables. They are accompanied by corn tortillas.

It may not be a lot, but sponsored child Jorge relishes every drop!

Snack: Many children around the world enjoy an afternoon snack. (And many adults, too!) See what our families ate.

Don't like to eat between meals? Go right to dinner.

Snack — Quezon City, Philippines

Our family in Quezon City cannot afford snacks for their children. Christine drinks a glass of water to tide her over before dinner time.

Christine’s mother would like to give her children milk, but their meager income barely covers their most basic needs … so all they have is water. There isn’t even money for the baby’s milk.

Snack — Kolkata, India

Food vendors abound on Kolkata’s busy urban streets. So, when she has a little pocket money, Moina likes to purchase a snack from them.

Here, Moina and her mother, Asha — who suffers from tuberculosis — share some chaat called churmur. This is a mix of deep-fried whole-wheat flour balls that are crushed and mixed with potatoes and tamarind chutney. (I hear it’s delicious.)

Snack — Kansas City, MO

Snack time in Kansas City! Here, Nora sits on my lap as we enjoy the sun. She’s eating freeze-dried organic strawberry chips. We choose to give her fruit-based snacks over wheat ones; we hope she’ll develop a liking for different types of fruits and textures … anything other than macaroni and cheese!

Snack — Lusaka, Zambia

Like most poor children in Lusaka, Tebeshi will only eat once, maybe twice, a day. Tebeshi and her family members did not have any snacks today.

The idea of food choice is so alien to Tebeshi, that, when asked about her favorite foods, she replied, “Nikudya chabe vili vonse” — “I just eat anything.”

Snack — Rural Guatemala

Snacks are an unusual treat for our family in Guatemala, but today the youngest, Heidy, enjoys a cookie by the fire.

During the school year, the Guatemalan government often provides a snack called atole, a sweet porridge flavored with cinnamon or chocolate, for the schoolchildren. This is an important supplement to their diet.

Dinner: For the final meal of the day, most families want a hearty and filling dinner. Enough food that their children rest easy during the night.

Dinner — Quezon City, Philippines

The whole family gathers at the table to enjoy dinner. Christine’s family doesn’t always eat dinner — often there isn’t enough food. But, when they do, the most frequent meal is leftover rice mixed with salt or ketchup.

Today they have a little leftover pagpag as a special treat.

Dinner — Kolkata, India

Like many sponsored families, Moina’s dinner in India is the leftovers from lunch: rice and vegetables. Without refrigeration, and few financial resources, families can’t afford to let food go to waste.

With rising food costs in India, the family worries about each grain of rice. Moina’s mother, Asha, explains, “It is becoming very difficult to run the family because the food prices are rising at a rate higher than what we earn. This is our greatest worry.”

Dinner — Kansas City, MO

Dinnertime for our family in Kansas City involves a couple rounds of food. My husband and I feed Nora her meal first. Once she goes to bed, we prepare a separate meal for ourselves.

This night, Nora had an omelet filled with mozzarella cheese and spinach. Here, she’s enjoying a taste of the shredded cheese used for her meal.

Dinner — Lusaka, Zambia

Their last meal hours ago, Tebeshi and her family struggle with hunger pangs all evening.

Agness, Tebeshis grandmother — shown here making nshima — is deeply concerned that two meals a day might soon become an unaffordable luxury. “Finding what to feed my family is becoming hard with the increasing prices of essential foods.”

Dinner — Rural Guatemala

Following an almost universal trend, our family in Guatemala eats leftovers from lunch for dinner.

Here, María spoon-feeds some leftover broth to her daughter, Heidy. The rest of the family will eat the broth with some tortillas and salt. Each will also drink a cup of weak, nearly clear, coffee to stave off hunger during the long night.

Photos and reporting assistance by Javier Cárcamo, Carmie Carpio, Chileshe Chanda and Nivedita Moitra.