Have you ever wondered what your sponsored child eats in a day? Join us for a tour of typical meals in Kenya and Uganda!
Most of the families we serve eat two meals a day - lunch and supper. Common choices for these meals include posho or ugali, matooke, githeri, and cassava, and sometimes chapati. You may be unfamiliar with some of these - keep reading and we’ll explain! These staples are often served with sides like beans, greens, onions, tomatoes, silverfish, or ground nuts (peanuts). In Kenya, the two meals a day are often supplemented by a breakfast of black tea or milk tea, along with leftover ugali from the previous night if there is any.
Here’s an explanation of some of the foods you might not be familiar with:
- Posho (the Ugandan name), or Ugali (the Kenyan name) is made from ground maize flour. It is boiled into a thick porridge, and usually served with beans.
- Matooke can refer either to a variety of starchy green bananas (or plantains) or the dish that is made from them. To prepare matooke, the fruit is typically wrapped in banana leaves, steamed, and then mashed - the end result is a little like mashed potatoes.
- Githeri is a mixture of maize and beans boiled together, and is very common in Kenya. Sometimes potatoes are added, and the whole thing is mashed. This is known as Mukimo, a staple of the Kikuyu people of central Kenya.
- Silverfish are tiny, sardine-like fish found in Lake Victoria. They are a major source of protein for Ugandan families living close enough to the lake. They are typically sun dried to allow them to last longer.
- Chapati is a flat fry bread, brought to sub-saharan Africa by Indian immigrants, and now common across both Kenya and Uganda.
- Cassava is a root vegetable similar to a sweet potato. It can be boiled or fried just like a potato, or ground into a flour for baking.
Many of the families we serve grow most of their own food in a small garden. Greens like kale, cabbage, and collard greens make nearly year-round crops and go a long way toward stretching out food supplies. In Kenya, they refer to this as “sukumu wiki,” or “pushing the week.” Our families rarely visit grocery stores. The food they do purchase, they buy from their neighbors or local market stands. Even their maize flour they typically purchase in raw form directly from a farm and then take to a local mill for grinding. This is much cheaper than purchasing pre-packaged flour from a store.
Most of the food preparation duties fall to the woman of the house and older daughters. Younger girls and sons typically help by fetching water and cleaning up. Families usually cook outside over an open wood fire, or sometimes a charcoal stove.
Just like you and me, most of our families make an effort to gather everyone together for the evening meal. Some might have a table they gather around inside their home, while others use mats outside in the family compound. Children are encouraged to take turns saying grace for the meal, thanking God for the blessing of this food.
Both Kenyans and Ugandans tend to be extremely generous. They will go out of their way to help a friend or neighbor in need, often giving food even if they don’t have enough themselves. But going to one another's homes to share a meal isn’t very common. That’s reserved for special occasions like big holidays or graduations.
A special occasion meal might include luxuries like chicken, beef and rice if the family can afford it. Fruit, special sauces and spices are also added to mark the occasion. Sometimes there is even soda or sweets as a special treat. If you’re invited to one of these gatherings, you would probably bring an ingredient to add to the meal, rather than a fully pre-prepared dish.
Of course, the children in our Life Centers get to experience a “special occasion” meal every week! Life Center meals include a wide variety of nutritious foods that children don’t typically see at home. We try to always incorporate fruit and protein, to help fill some of their nutritional gaps - that’s why mealtimes are often each child’s favorite part of Life Center! You may have seen photos of your child enjoying cake or a soda at a Love Pack party or Easter celebration. Now that you’ve read a little more about their day-to-day diet you can understand just how special those treats are!
Next time you write to your sponsored child, consider asking them about the food they eat and tell them about your meals! It’s fascinating to learn the similarities and differences between cultures.