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21 Days for World Hunger – Day 3: Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia

21 Days for World Hunger – Day 3: Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia

Finish your plate. There are children starving in Ethiopia.  

I’m sure I wasn’t the only American kid that heard those dreaded words sitting at the supper table staring down into a dismal abyss of gut-curdling morsels.

While parents come from a well-intentioned place to bribe their children into food-inspired compassion, it takes a special child to prioritize these nameless children thousands of miles away from that moment in front of that plate of objectionable food. Normally I had no problem finishing my plate. I ate the food that was put there, because, for the most part, I liked it thanks to my Italian mom and her excellent culinary skills. But on those days, the sautéed liver and boiled lima bean days, my brain sent alarm signals to the rest of my body upon the first scent of rotting, iron-laden air molecules wafting up the stairs long before I was called to wash my hands. On those days I wanted to do anything but finish that plate. I literally could not stomach it. I’d sit at the table in despair, and until I figured how to manipulate my way out of the situation or drop the food into my napkin and sneak it to the dog or stuff it in my pocket to be covertly flushed, I sat at the table until my plate was finished. I recall one night when everyone else was getting ready for bed, and I in obstinate protest, sat staring at my unfinished plate. I was too far removed from those millions of children who would have traded me places in a lightning flash of a second because they didn’t have the luxury of choosing stubbornness over sustenance.


For 21 Days I am researching and writing about world hunger. This is my third world hunger souljourn, a soul journey. The first two were in 2010 when I wrote for Conducive Chronicle. During these 21 days, I plan to consume a reduced calorie diet in solidarity with the 795 million people in the world living with hunger. Everyday.

On this third day of what is shaping up to be a long 21 days, I awoke with the goal of eating only one meal for the entire day, just like the majority of those 795 million people who do not have the advantage of three squares.

International Fund for Africa – helping women, children, and families in Ethiopia

Today my focus is on an organization that’s alleviating the hunger of those starving children in Ethiopia. International Fund for Africa (IFA) is connecting compassion with a need: to help the children, the future of Ethiopia and of our global world, thrive. In 2010, I interviewed IFA’s founder, Dr. Anteneh Roba, and I’m happy to be connecting with him again. Today and in a future post, I’ll be sharing more of what I learned from Dr. Roba and his associates.

IFA operates on the principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence and respect for all life) and its founder’s deep and abiding belief in biocentricity and the interconnectedness of all life. IFA promotes non-hierarchical and non-exploitative relationships between human beings and all other life forms. Dr. Roba, Ethiopian born, is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine, Obesity Medicine and Academy of Aesthetic Medicine, and is one of the 1,800 doctors who is certified by the Board in obesity medicine both in the United States and Canada.

Together, Dr. Roba and his business partner Seble Nebiyeloul (MHA), who has over 20 years of health management experience in prominent US health institutes, have worked tirelessly for the women and children of Ethiopia.

IFA’s Vision
To build a world where the well being of every woman and child is a reality.

IFA’s Mission
To work towards ensuring that every child in Ethiopia has the chance to grow and realize his/her full potential. By saving lives at birth, strengthening the healthcare and educational systems and working in partnership with families, communities, institutions, government and non-governmental organisations, IFA seeks to help people help themselves with evidenced-based projects aimed at sustainability.

There are 96.5 million people in Ethiopia (up from 66 million in 2000), and according to the FOA 29.2% of Ethiopia’s children under five are underweight.

The average daily dietary energy consumption per capita for Ethiopia is 2192 kcal/capita/day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Interview Questions ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s been a real challenge for me to find precise details about caloric intake for people living with hunger. For instance, the FAO states the average daily dietary energy consumption (calories, basically) per capita for Ethiopia is 2192 calories/day. I know people living with hunger get nowhere near that amount of calories, daily. How do I find information on the actual calories consumed for a person living with hunger? 

Dr. Roba: The food poverty line is one indicator of food security. The food poor are those who spend less on food than is required to consume the minimum level of calories for a healthy, active life. In Ethiopia more than one in four households (28%) fall below the food poverty line.

Even with the emergency food ration included, affected households are consuming considerably less than their minimum daily food needs. Eighty percent of the affected population are accessing fewer calories than the minimum recommended by WHO. More worryingly, 60% of the affected population are accessing less than 75% of their daily needs. This means the hungry are consuming less than 500 kcal/day.

Source: WFP Ethiopia Drought Emergency Household Food Security Bulletin #1 February 2016

In what way (s) does the work of IFA help alleviate hunger in Ethiopia? 

Dr. Roba: IFA’s main work involving hunger is by feeding underprivileged, hungry children in schools on the outskirts of Addis Ababa and also in rural Ethiopia.

What are the staple foods of Ethiopia?
Dr. Roba with the help of his associate, Tsedaye Bezabeh, answered the following questions.

IFA: Various types cereals are among the most commonly consumed food commodities in Ethiopia, as depicted in the table below (Source: FAO 2012). Cereals (excluding beer) take up 64.3% of the total food supply, roots 11.3%, meat 2%, vegetable oils and animal fats 4.1%, sugar and honey 2.9% and milk (excluding butter) and eggs 3.1%.


Tell me about child hunger in Ethiopia? 

Undernourishment is a major public health problem among children in Ethiopia. Undernourishment means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet the daily minimum dietary energy requirements, over a period of one year. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines hunger as being synonymous with chronic undernourishment. According to FAO, the average minimum daily energy requirement is about 1,800 kilocalories per person.

*Note: the FAO uses 1800 calories as the cutoff from those who are undernourished to those who are not. If a person can go for 3 months on 1800 calories a day, she is no longer considered to be undernourished.

Chronic malnutrition constitutes 80% of all forms of malnutrition, and it continues to cause irreversible consequences on children’s physical and mental health. It is estimated that 40% of all Ethiopian children are stunted from the effects of chronic malnutrition. Such children are more likely to develop severe infections secondary to compromised immune responses, which is further compounded by the high prevalence of bacterial and parasitic diseases, thus aggravating malnutrition among children. In Ethiopia malnutrition contributes to over half of child deaths.

What causes childhood undernutrition (hunger) in Ethiopia?

The main causes of undernutrition of children are: low dietary intake, inaccessibility to food, inequitable distribution of food within the household, improper food storage and preparation, dietary taboos and infectious diseases. Specifically, micronutrient deficiencies result from inadequate intake or inefficient utilization of available micronutrients due to infections and parasitic infestations.

It is well known that adequate supply of food does not guarantee food security at the household level, as it is mainly determined by the price of food, and other sociodemographic factors like gender empowerment and the adequacy of the infrastructure.

What is IFA doing to alleviate childhood hunger?

One proven program that addresses hunger and malnutrition among children is the provision of school meals which helps overcome some of these barriers. School meals are helping eliminate hunger for millions of children around the globe and is contributing to their education, nutrition, health and future productivity as adults. School feeding also serves as a social protection system for vulnerable families and children. School meals have been shown to increase the nutritional status of school-age children in a variety of ways. For example, there is a notable reduction in malnutrition via diet diversification and an increased absorption of micronutrients. Overall, the amount of kilocalories in a child’s diet is expanded when they are given nutritional resources that they would otherwise have little or no access to. By increasing the amount of nutrition a child receives at school, that child’s family’s nutrition status also increases as their familial demand and requirement for food is decreased. As well as directly addressing hunger, school meal projects encourage families to keep their children in school and so help them build better futures. If children are not hungry they will also concentrate better on their lessons. With a solid education, growing children have a better chance of finding their own way out of hunger.

Despite the importance of school meals for vulnerable and poor children, currently only 5% of primary school age children are beneficiaries of a school feeding program in Ethiopia. IFA believes no child should attend school hungry; therefore, it’s currently running a School Health and Nutrition Program (SSHNP) to alleviate hunger and undernutrition among school children.

How many children are recipients of your school meals? 

IFA’s SHNP supports 500 vulnerable children in five primary schools, four are urban schools in Addis Ababa (Aghazian No.2, Sibiste Negasi, Hana and Lafto), and one is a rural school in North Shewa, Amhara region (Jihur). The SHNP serves nutritionally balanced school meals that provide 70-80 percent of the daily dietary energy needs. Meals are prepared and served on school premises throughout school year.

What do you feed the children?

Ethiopian vegetarian recipes which include chickpeas, lentils, carrots, spices, and Teff injera bread. IFA provided me with a complete list of recipes they use for the meals. I’ll be sharing some of those with you. 


What does it cost to feed a child a school meal?

The cost of school meals is 0.65 USD/day/child, which comes to 140 USD/year/child. This cost includes administration costs.

Some of the children wrote to IFA thanking them for the meals

Emebet, a 13 year old girl in grade 5A wrote:

I benefited from the various types of food which provided me with enrgy and which was supportive for my education. I feel bad when I see other children who come to with empty stomachs. In the future I want to help such children and other helpless persons. I want to thank IFA, the organization that helps us.

Tarik, a 16 year old boy in 7B wrote:

The well balanced diet I received has helped me stay healthy and strong and my grades have also improved. I want to continue doing well in school; when I grow up I will help the elderly. I also want the school lunch program to continue giving us such good meals but would like to suggest that the beans be replaced by something else. I want to thank the organization that is helping us.

Ammanuel, a 14 year old boy in 7B wrote:

My families economy and hardship has improved. I am doing well in my education, health and in my family. In the future I want to help and share what I have with others who don’t have the opportunity to eat, drink and go to school. I will at laet help them get noticed. I have no other comment or feedback and I want to thank IFA.

IFA completed their 2015-2016 school year with the following successes:

The school nutrition component improved the nutritional status of 500 school children by:

  • Serving 83,600 hot plant-based nutritious lunches and 5148 breakfasts for kindergarten students (breakfast for the kindergarten students is new as of the 2016-2017 academic year and is in response to teachers reporting many of the little ones were coming to school hungry and unable to focus)
  • Dispensing preventive deworming tablets for 500 school children
  • Dispensed micronutrient supplements

The school eye health component improved learning opportunities by:

  • Operating a vision screening program at 8 primary schools for 7,645 students
  • Conducted refraction for 296 students
  • Dispensed 166 spectacles and treated 67 students with eye infection

The school sanitation component improved hygiene and sanitation by:

  • Training 1,200 girls on menstrual hygiene management and on how to make their own sanitary napkins with holders
  • Delivered various capacity building initiatives on safe food preparation, proper hand washing, etc.

Many thanks to Dr. Roba, his associate, Tsedaye, and to everyone involved with helping IFA help the women, children, and families of Ethiopia.


My Daily Intake for Day 3
Today I weighed in at 117.5

On Wednesday mornings I work at the Oregon State University’s extension campus for Jackson County as part of my Master Gardener apprenticeship. I work at the Food Security Garden, which today involved harvesting tomatoes. Easy enough. Sometimes it’s strenuous labor as we are a no-till farmlet working the soil with tools like a Broadfork instead of a tractor with a goal to maintain the soil biology. Still, despite the easier labor, I arrived on an empty stomach save for the two Brazil nuts I eat each morning. The nuts are for my thyroid health, and I will periodically take these two well-being “pills” during this 21 days. By noon, I was feeling sluggish and drained. I walked by the vineyard, and the folks there were harvesting grapes. They showed me a bucket of grapes and were like, “take some, we have so many!” I stretched my t-shirt to make a bucket, and they loaded me up. Before I got to the car, I had eaten a handful. Nine. They were so scrumptious. Purple sugar miracles. The rest are on the kitchen counter, calling out and seducing me like fruit strumpets.

The glass of psyllium husks didn’t make my taste buds happy, but it filled a wee bit of the empty space in my stomach.

Dinner. Just yum. It took longer than I expected to prepare, so I was very very hungry by the time it was ready.  Eating at 7:30 PM after not having eaten all day (except for 2 nuts and some grapes) is way too late. Note to self: don’t do that again.



Split lentils with Potato and Beetroot


This is a recipe from IFA’s school meal plan with some minor adaptations. All of the school meals are served with 100g brown bread roll per person, with either peanut butter or a banana. I will not be including those extras in tonight’s dinner.

For the record, I applaud IFA for providing these hearty, nutritious meals to the children of Ethiopia. I think US schools could learn something from this example.

Split Lentils

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1/2 med onion chopped
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped ginger
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • Cardamom, sweet basil, coriander and Lippia adoensis-Koseret (I don’t have this, so I’m using oregano) to taste
  • 1 TBSP soya bean oil (I’m substituting olive oil)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • Iodized salt (to taste)
  • 1 small green chili pepper (I’m using a whole chili pepper from my garden)
  • 4 cups water


  • Heat a small amount of oil in pan
  • Gently fry the onion and small amount of garlic, stirring
  • Add tomato and small amount of ginger and cook for 5 mins
  • Add the spices and green chili pepper and cook gently for 2-3 mins
  • Add split lentils, mix everything together and cook for 1-2 mins
  • Add 3 cups water bring to boil then simmer gently
  • Continue to add water as needed until lentils are well cooked
  • Add salt to taste

Potato with Beetroot

  • 1 beet and 2 potatoes, cubed (bake the potatoes in advance for about 30 minutes to save some time)
  • Beet greens
  • Avocado oil (the recipe calls for soybean oil, but I have avo oil)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • Cardamom, sweet basil, coriander and Lippia adoensis (Koseret) to taste
  • Iodized salt to taste
  • Water as needed

**I made some major adaptations to this recipe. To conserved oil, I added a little bit of water to the fry pans. I combined the potatoes and lentils and placed the beets on the side.

  • Lightly coat a fry pan with oil and fry potatoes, add garlic at the end
  • In a separate small pan fry beetroot for 5 mins
  • Add garlic and spices to potatoes
  • Add salt to taste
  • Combine potatoes with lentils


*Serves 2 adults  (according to IFA, this amount would serve five children)

If you’d like to make a donation to IFA and help support the impressive work they do, click here.


I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for the minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.,
taken from his remarks upon acceptance of the Nobel Prize

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. 
  ~Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. 
~John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States


To read other posts in this series, click click click the links. Please share your comments!

Day 1:    The Food Justice Diet
Day 2:    Alarming and Curious Statistics
Day 3:    Finish Your Plate, There are Children Starving in Ethiopia
Day 4:    The Nameless Hungry
Days 5-6:  “Where Does She Get Her Protein??”
Day 7:    One Small NGO Making a Big Impact in Ethiopia
Day 8:    The Language of Hunger
Day 9:    Plenty of Soy Solutions in Latin America
Days 10-11: Can Small-scale farming feed the world?
Day 12: Why Organic Farming?
Days 13-14: The Have and Have-Nots of Southeast Asia
Day 15: Have You Eaten Today?
Day 16: Hunger in America
Days 17 & 18: Hunger’s Dirty Little Secret
Day 19: Eat Plants
Day 20: Watch This, Read That
Day 21: The Power of Activism


    1. Kenda

      Ha ha. I know. I’m such a messy cook, which is WHY it’s SO much better you do the cooking for us.

      I’m researching vegan Korean meals to try next week. I think. Still figuring that out. Love you lovah.

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