Eating Gabriel’s Lunch

Our two-year-old has learned to pronounce “solidarity,” but the best way to learn what it means is to live it!

Through the Lahash Sponsorship Program, we sponsor two precious kids in Tanzania named Anjelina and Baraka. We always feel a deeper connection to them during Rice & Beans Month. We love knowing that their food will increase in quantity and variety because our food decreases in quantity and variety. We have several rice and beans dishes that we eat regularly throughout the month, but we decided to get a little more specific with our solidarity and eat a meal that resembles one of their meals as closely as possible.

If you’ve seen this year’s new Rice & Beans Month guide, you know where we got the idea. Our sponsored kids are part of the same program as Gabriel, who is featured in the story “Eyes Full of Hope.” When we decided to make “Gabriel’s Lunch,” we knew we were making “Anjelina and Baraka’s Lunch” as well! (If you haven’t seen the print version, you can read Gabriel’s story here, and find the recipe here.)

Our two-year-old, Nate, struggles to stay in his seat at meal times, especially once he has declared, “This is not my fra-vorite.” Thankfully, there are two videos online about the Nutrition Program where Gabriel eats, so we watched them both at the table, pointing out that the kids in the videos were eating the same foods we were eating! (The videos are called “More Than A Meal” and “A Special Nutrition Program” and you can find them at I’m not going to say that Nate finished all of his food, but it definitely helped him make a connection with children who ate theirs very happily.

The rest of us had some connections to make, too. As I prepared the food, I was very aware of how many times I flipped the water on and off in the sink, and thought of the women who spend all day preparing huge quantities of this same food for the children at the program without the convenience of a fully-equipped kitchen. Then, as we sat down to eat, our ten-year-old, Kaya, was a little bummed that we weren’t adding salsa to the meal. Leah, our eleven-year-old, has a serious dislike of bananas. And cooked greens are not something we eat very often at our house. But they were determined to experience the meal as authentically (and gratefully) as possible, and we all enjoyed it!

Making and eating “Anjelina and Baraka’s Lunch” was a highlight of our Rice & Beans Month experience so far this year. There was something tangibly transformative about taking the concept of solidarity to a new level. The two-year-old’s objections aside, we will probably eat it again soon. It was such a logical step to take, and helped remind us that we are not only eating simple meals for our sponsored kids, but with them.

Jen Johnson works as a Writer/Editor for Lahash International, and lives in Portland with her husband, Keith, and four children. (The fourth child sweetly napped during this Rice & Beans adventure.) They have participated in Rice & Beans Month in various ways since it started in 2010.