Ebola has killed thousands of people. Act now to stop its deadly spread.

First Person Blog

Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty

7 photos that reveal what families eat in one week

Posted by

Share this story:

How much food does your household go through in a week? What are your go-to family meals? And how much do you spend on food? You can get a glimpse of how others answered these questions in Oxfam’s new photo series, which depicts people from around the globe with one week’s food supply for their families.

Building on an idea that originated with 2005′s  Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, the new images feel especially timely now, when reports about half of the world’s food going to waste vie for space with news about rising global food prices. According to a recent article accompanying some of the photos in the UK Independent, “There is deep injustice in the way food is grown and distributed … the world’s poorest people spend 50-90 percent of their income on food, compared with just 10-15 percent in developed countries.”

As you can probably guess, the families’ diets differ depending on where they live. But if if there’s one common thread that links these images, it’s that we all have to eat. We all face challenges and successes when it comes to feeding our families. And we can all help to make the food system fairer for everyone.

So check out seven highlights below. Then tell us in the comments: What does your week’s food supply look like? How does your family measure up?

Shahveller, Azerbaijan

Photo: David Levene/Oxfam

Mirza Bakhishov, 47, his wife, Zarkhara, 37, and two sons, Khasay, 18 and Elchin, 15, own a small plot of land where they grow cotton and wheat as well as animal feed. “Our small cattle and poultry [are] everything for us. All our income and livelihood is dependent on them,” said Bakhishov.

Vavuniya, Sri Lanka

Photo: Abir Abdullah/Oxfam

Selvern, 70, far right, and her daughters have been members of Oxfam’s local dairy cooperative for four years. Her youngest daughter Sukitha, second from right, works at the cooperative and is also trained as a vet. Selvern gets up at 5:30 every morning to help her daughters milk their cows; she sends most of the milk to the co-op with Sukitha and uses the remainder to make cream and ghee for the family.

Mecha, Ethiopia

Photo: Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam

A week’s food supply for Wubalem Shiferaw, her husband Tsega, and 4-year-old daughter Rekebki includes flour, vegetable oil, and a paste of spices called berbere. Tsega works as a tailor, while Wubalem follows a long local tradition and supplements her income with honey production. An Oxfam-supported cooperative helped Wubalem make the transition to modern beekeeping methods, which produce greater yields.

Yegeghus, Armenia

Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos

The Josephyan family from with their weekly food supply, which includes wheat flour, dried split peas, sugar, and cooking oil. The family supplements their diet with eggs laid by their chickens and wild greens from the fields.

London, UK

Photo: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

Ian Kerr, 30, with his family and a week’s food supplied by a charity food bank. Ian left his job to become a full-time carer to his disabled son Jay-J, 12. Also pictured are his daughter Lillian, 5, and mother-in-law Linda, 61. Kerr says the family’s favorite food is spaghetti Bolognese, but Lillian says her favorite is Jaffa Cakes.

Kaftarkhana, Tajikistan

Photo: Andy Hall/Oxfam

BiBi-Faiz Miralieba and her family, from left to right: son Siyoushi, 11, niece Gulnoya Shdova, 14, and children Jomakhon, 6, Shodmon, 9, and Jamila,13. Like many women in rural areas of Tajikistan, Miralieba is now the head of her household as her husband has migrated to Russia to find work.

Gutu, Zimbabwe

Photo: Annie Bungeroth/Oxfam

Ipaishe Masvingise and her family with their food for the week, which includes grains and groundnuts as well as fruits like pawpaw and oranges. Masvingise, a farmer, said she sells extra grain from her harvests to pay for school fees and medical costs, and to support members of her extended family who don’t own their own land.

Join the conversation

  1.  avatarBrian

    Thank you so much Anna. It helps to see rather than just hear.

    The varied diets are interesting; in western Africa’s Sao Tome & Principe (a tiny little island country), the local folks laugh when visitors are startled by breadfruit falling from the trees. The joke is that the land will throw food at you; bananas, mangoes, coconuts. You can’t starve, but protein deficiency is a problem. Illegal fishing has depleted the local fisheries over the last couple of decades. Troublesome.

    Reply
  2.  avatarInubiyaMarsha

    Hi Brian this sounds like Jamaica where mangoes are used to stone dogs, although we have one of the largest debt in the world and breadfruit are prized though we love and respect it. If you cannot buy rice or flour at least someone will always have a breadfruit to give. Also in Turkey where bread is wasted by almost everyone. What a SHAME!

    Reply
  3.  avatarmichelle twin mum

    How interesting, thanks for the insight. I am really amazed that we went into the hills and met the beekeepers in Mecha when I was in Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign last October, so I found myself saying to my husband, I recognise that couple!

    Thanks again, Michelle

    Reply
  4.  avatarBrian

    i look and am ill knowing how much food is wasted in this country…restaurants..and in homes…and the all you can eat buttets are a sin….gorge and purge…..much food goes bad that could be saved for others but fear of a law suit keeps many going hungry unneccesarily…and all the food that gets buried in the name of profit…possibly the most disgusting….

    Reply
  5.  avatarJoan Bartos

    This is a very moving and educational series of photos. We in the west need to have these photos posted in every grocery store and restaurant. thank you for this fascinating work.

    Reply
  6. Anna Kramer Post author

    Thank you to everyone who read about, shared, and commented on these photos! We’re so glad to see them capturing people’s attention. I agree–they are very thought-provoking and made me think harder about my own food consumption each week.

    Reply
  7.  avatarRadhika Vasanth

    Thank you for sharing this. Many times I buy quite a lot of stuff out of impulse. It really hurts when i have to throw them away because it goes stale. This post reminds me that I need to hone my planning skills so that I can minimize the food waste.

    Reply
  8.  avatarLily Nyariki

    Amazing how some people can survive with awfully small portions! Just like the need for a crusade against illiteracy, there is need for a similar effort against food wastage!

    Reply
  9.  avatarSteve Brocklesby

    Very interesting. It shows that you can remain healthy on relatively little. It might be revealing to add an eighth photo of an affluent western family e.g from the USA and see what the difference is. (The London family here seems to be less than averagely well off)

    Reply
  10.  avatarCheryl

    Be grateful for what you have! To waste food is such as shame, especially when combined with an over health decline. Excess by itself does not equal a healthier society, focusing on nutritious, natural foods however, does.

    Reply
  11. Anna Kramer Post author

    Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting! Steve and Christine, I would love to include a photo of a more affluent family from the US or elsewhere. However, there were no photos like this taken as part of Oxfam’s photo project (though the Hungry Planet book, which I linked to in my post, does include some). If any readers would like to take a photo of their family with a week’s worth of food and are comfortable with it being added to the project, just let me know. I would be happy to feature it, either here or in a follow-up post.

    Reply
  12.  avatarArlene

    Note-
    The London family had no fresh food. Just canned and processed garbage. So much for food banks. I will have to go back to Whole Foods to see what they do with their old food. Small shops keep a section of stuff that is over ripe or 3 day old bread type stuff. If I see stuff in my fridge about to loose it, I freeze it and use it to make soup base or fruit compote. Get creative.

    Reply
  13.  avatarAnna

    I volunteer at a local community garden and we get many vegetable scraps from Whole Foods to add to our compost piles. Yesterday we chopped up an immense amount of cucumbers and lettuce-most of which looked to be perfectly alright. It’s a shame that it goes to waste like that and for silly reasons (like a sell-by or use-by date that is not understood by many people), but at least here it is being used for compose to feed future crops.

    Reply
  14.  avatarAnne Harb

    Our One WEEK Supply in Louisiana, usa:
    Family of five:
    1 Gallon Whole Milk
    1 Gallon Tea
    1 lb. Coffee
    1 cup honey and or sugar
    1/2 Cup Oil and 1 stick Butter
    6 Litters COKE
    1 loaf Bread
    2 Cups Oatmeal
    1 Bag of Chips
    1 lb. Onions and some garlic
    1 Bag Apples
    1 Bag Oranges
    1 pint Berries
    6 lbs mixed Fresh Vegetables
    4 lbs. of fresh Spinach
    3 lbs. of Meat
    2 lbs. seafood
    1 lb. sweets/cookies

    Reply
  15.  avatarPat

    Can someone please explain the concept of fresh food to the food banks in London? I’m appalled that a food bank is handing out this kind of crap and calling it food.

    Reply
  16.  avatarColleen

    Excellent post. Such a good thing to be aware of. The families from Armenian and Azerbaijan take me back. I have sweet memories staying with villagers in both places and this is indeed what they eat. Simple but wholesome.

    Reply
  17.  avatarElaine

    It’s striking that a family from UK is eating mostly processed food. There are no fresh vegetables or fruit, fresh meet or fish. It would be interesting to see the health records for all these families, especially to see the medical records for children.

    Reply
  18.  avatarGovindasamy Sekar

    It is good to spread awareness to avoid wastages. In India more wastages of food items occurs , sorry not ‘occur’ but wasted especially marriage and other social functions of elite. A campaign is to be done to mitigate this injustice. Though food changes from place to place depending upon the weather, topography, availability, practice, need , nature of work etc. , the objective is hunger free world and healthier humanity. Let us all work in this direction. – Govindasamy Sekar, Chennai, India.

    Reply
  19.  avatarCaroline Collins

    As a volunteer at a UK foodbank I will try to get a photo of a typical one week foodparcel posted from our service- which includes fresh items of fruit, vegetables , cheese and milk not sure how to post though

    Reply
  20.  avatarSara

    Pat

    Foodbanks can only give out what people like you and I give them. I have never given to a food bank. Also they don’t have the facilities to store fresh food.

    Reply
  21.  avatarChrys

    Interesting…no pics of American families. Probably because we would be ashamed ..and the amount of food we waste is disgusting. We have so much , its insane.

    Reply
  22.  avatarPriss

    I noticed that the difference from their food and the food that I buy seem to show that although they don’t have an over abundance; they seem to have a way better diet . I see fresh fruits, fresh veggies, some have nuts, and fresh milk.
    I hardly ever buy fruits or fresh veggies,(too expensive for my budget), I buy milk but don’t drink much because it’s not fresh, I do have beans and tortillas, but I don’t buy bread; so it goes to show we might live in America but that doesn’t mean that we have it good, I would love to eat fresh fruit and veggies, but just can’t seem to budget it in so I do without.

    Reply
  23.  avatarJennifer A.

    The family with the most fresh produce (the Sri Lankan family) looks the healthiest and happiest by far. As “Priss” mentions, in the USA our fruits and vegetables can be expensive, especially the organic produce. I am on a limited budget but make it work by shopping at the less expensive farmers’ markets, buying produce in season, buying dried goods in the bulk section, buying non-perishables on sale or online, and almost never buying prepared foods or foods without nutritional value. I make my own sauerkraut, almond milk and yogurt, and grow sprouts. As a renter, I can only have a container garden, but am able to grow a small amount of strawberries, lettuces, beets, potatoes, herbs, and tomatoes. In addition to the fruits and veggies from the farmers’ markets, my grocery list includes lentils, split peas, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, nuts, edamame, tofu, tempeh, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, curry paste, and fair trade tea and coffee. If I’m on my last couple dollars, I’ll dress up a 20-cent ramen soup package by adding broccoli, wakame, edamame, and green onion to the simmering broth. I’m learning about bee-keeping so when I have enough money saved up for supplies, we can have our own honey and trade some for eggs. I guess my point is, it might take extra work, restraint, and creativity, but a healthful diet can be maintained on a very low paycheck. Beans and tortillas aren’t terrible, but they are not enough. You need the vitamins and minerals found in fresh fruits and vegetables!

    Reply
  24.  avatarhttp://www.dailymotion.com/

    Although you could switch to organic (a really suggested choice), the option could be pricey and may possibly not be
    easy for all create, depending on in which you reside and
    what is accessible in your neighborhood. But even more concerning was I contacted Jeremy Saffron who
    is a good friend of mine and he told me that he too thought it was once good and
    he did more research and found out it really wasn’t.
    In a 2006 research study, it was discovered that reading and math
    skills were a stumbling block to deciphering the confusing labels on many foods.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *