Saying "A starving child in poverty would have loved that" to someone who hasn't finished their meal is dismissive and horrible

  1. I grew up poor but my mom still said this. But as a young kid I was very confused, she would say 'finish your food there's starving kids in Africa.' and the only way my kid mind could figure any correlation between those was that our garbage got sent to Africa and I should not put food in the garbage for the starving kids there

  2. I grew up with this phrase and was fed adult portions and then scolded if I didn’t clear my plate, as if leftovers aren’t a thing. And the same people who enforced this also fat-shamed me as a kid once I started gaining weight.

  3. Made the mistake of asking my dad if he knew what leftovers were. My mom laughed so I didn't get in trouble, but that look I got scared a couple years off the back end of my life.

  4. I was forced to eat adult sized portions in a very short time for most of my childhood. I'm now bulimic. It's an issue.

  5. Leftovers is like half my diet. I usually cook or order food to last me 2 or 3 days. It’s mostly just cause I’m lazy, but leftovers are just so handy.

  6. I remember when I was a kid in school I had a pen that broke, and when I threw the cap away a teacher said "A child in Africa could have drank water out of that cap."

  7. There was always a weird dichotomy at my grandparents where they would get extremely offended if there was any food left on our plates. It's one of the few things my parents ever actually fully explained to me, the reason being that when they were kids, there was no food a lot of days, so when there was food, it didn't matter what it was, you ate it all. For us spoiled little turds to then tell that person we're not going to eat their tuna casserole because it tastes bad is like a slap in the face, because to them, the fact that they even have a tuna casserole to give us is a representation of the hard work they have done to give us the things they didn't have.

  8. Next time, hand the potato to the 'guilter' and ask them to send it to a starving child. Simple problem, simple solution. :-)

  9. My mom did that to another mom at my school once. We had a holiday pizza party and a couple kids didn’t finish their cans of soda. (We were like 6) my mom collected the cans after lunch and took them to the bathroom to pour them out so she could recycle them. The other mom— who she’d only just met— came up behind her and used the stupid “starving kids in China would love that” and my mom turned around, looked her dead in the eye and said “want me to box them up so you can send it to them?” The other mom didn’t know how to reply and they never got along very well after that. 😂

  10. I was in middle school when the famine hit Ethiopia in the '80s - one of the classes/clubs decided to take turns standing near the trash cans and "reminding" everyone about wasting food/how the kids in Ethiopia would give anything to have X or Y you hadn't finished. I asked about how I could send them my peas.

  11. Yes, the ol’ “well let’s box it up and mail it to them!” has been a great retort to this quandary since at least the 1950s! Bonus points if they’re conservative because you get to say “but wouldn’t that be socialism?”

  12. The craziest part about it is that when we get full, we’re supposed to think of all the people in the world who don’t have enough to eat, and then eat more than our bodies need, like we’re mocking them. What the fuck?

  13. Crazy humans indeed. Force people to eat more than they should, then shaming people for becoming obese or diabetic.

  14. Went to an Italian restaurant last year with my brother and his fiance and their kids. I'm a grown ass man and ordered a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Spaghetti is already super filling and the meatballs were huge. I reached the last meatball and had about half of it before feeling like I'd reached my limit.

  15. I think the intent of the phrase comes from the Great Depression and some families could barely afford to eat even in the States; it was more about not being super fussy about the food given to you. But as time went on, people could afford more food yet the sentiment remained, and then it turned into parents parroting their parents, not realizing the context had shifted from not liking the limited food to being unable to finish a large portion of food (and/or disliking the food given but being able to afford enough anyway).

  16. I think it’s more often directed at picky kids who are hungry but don’t want to eat what they’re given. But parents need to find a better method of getting their kids to eat healthy without forcing them to eat food they don’t like.

  17. I HATE when people use the "hungry kids" line. I was a hungry child in poverty, and nobody seemed to give a crap then. If you're really worried about the kids, stop using them as examples and go feed them!!!

  18. Yep. People just remember the poor when they want to make a point. I've seen people expose a pic of a kid looking for food in the trash as argument against people that call themselves "pet mom/dad" (????????)

  19. Also i might be in the minority here, but before even one dollar of mine gets donated to Africa, I’ll donate it to my own country. There are „more than enough“ starving people every day I go to work in Germany. No way this will be sent to some shady „NGO“ in Africa. Never ever. They’ve had enough billions shoved down their throats.

  20. It’s definitely healthier to say “grab a little bit now and you can always grab more if you’re still hungry.” Picky eaters don’t become less picky by forcing them to eat things they don’t like and teaching kids to finish their plate can encourage them to over-eat. “Try a bite, if you don’t like it you don’t have to finish it” is a much healthier rule to teach kids.

  21. I used to tell my parents “Well put it in the mail and send it to them, then” If a person has had enough to eat then it should be left at that. Nothing to stretch your stomach over (hahaha).

  22. Me too, and not even in a snarky way, when I was really young I honestly thought they could send my leftovers to a hungry child.

  23. This reminds me - one year my mom took all the Halloween candy we got from trick or treating and gave it to her super Christian friend so she could supposedly donate it to homeless children. I thought it sounded off because on Halloween anybody can get free candy. Whenever I had to hang out with the Christian lady’s kids they would brag about how they got to keep all our candy for themselves. I was so pissed.

  24. I completely agree. My dad still forces us to eat every grain of rice on our plate. If I leave 1 tiny speck of food on my plate, especially as a child, I was forced to eat it bc someone in the world would kill for 1 grain of rice. Usually after that my dad would start scolding me to the point I became afraid to leave food on my plate. Everytime I was full but there was still food on my plate I shoved it down my throat, often causing me to choke, gag, throw up or just be sick afterwards but at least I ate all my food.

  25. my boss once got mad at me for using too much water and told me i had to think about the kids in africa who have no water.....

  26. The reason those kids in africa don't have enough water is because its an arid, hot and poor region without good infrastructure and roads. Even if i somehow were to send the water to african kids it would most likely be lost in desert or jungle.

  27. I’m convinced this attitude is a contributing factor to the obesity crisis because from a young age so many of us are emotional manipulated into ignoring our body’s cues and eating more than we feel comfortable with. I absolutely hate the feeling of being overfull now because as I child I was so often forced to eat until I was physically uncomfortable.

  28. I think it’s worst in the “parent cooks food, puts portions on all plates” type households. In my family, it was always just a bigass serving and we‘d pick and choose what and how much we eat. So there was no need to guilt a kid because you served them too much.

  29. I used to think that way. Guilty over not finishing the gigantic portions in restaurants and throwing away. Especially when going to lunch with office colleagues. I don't want to keep the leftovers at my desk all day n carry it home.. i wish i could ask for smaller portions. I have similar issues with starbucks coffee portions. I switched to Dunkin donuts as they give smaller portions..

  30. Parents telling their kids “finish your meal” or “you eat what I put on your plate” isn’t helping the obesity. It just makes kids eat more than they should so they can please someone else.

  31. Ehh, the obesity crisis is more the cause of poverty, food deserts, and general malnutrition because of the food choices/prices/education

  32. I gotta agree. Even now, that’s how my mother in law can be at holidays. She’ll be upset if I don’t take a huge portion of everything. While the food is amazing, I don’t want to eat until I’m bursting at the seems lol.

  33. Good point. I didn’t struggle with my weight as a kid because my parents never made us overeat and didn’t feed us a ton of unhealthy food. I get so weirded out watching parents force their kids to eat and policing them to the point they make them eat a certain about. My parents never did that. They’d put a small amount on our plate and if we didn’t eat much they’d let us toss it. If we wanted more we got more. We each disliked a couple of foods so they didn’t force feed us those foods we hated. They also didn’t spoil us and allow us to only eat chicken nuggets and fries (which is sadly what many parents do). They had us try many kinds of food and we all ate the same meal. No cooking pot roast for themselves then letting us just eat chicken fingers. I feel like parents are so extreme sometimes. It’s either ‘eat EVERYTHING I put in front of you’ or ‘you can eat WHATEVER you want and I’ll let you live off goldfish and Kraft Mac and cheese’. Both extremes lead to kids having unhealthy relationships with food and poor diets.

  34. I did similar with my kids. Another idea I stumbled into was letting them “leave one thing behind” when there was a meal with multiple ingredients, like soup. So if they really hated zucchini that day, they could skip only zucchini as long as they ate everything else. They thought that was fair.

  35. When I was quite young, my mother explained to me that some children have to eat out of garbage cans. This led to me starting to throw food away for these children.

  36. This is annoying. I’m American and have some foreign family members. To anyone who says you have to eat all your food in XYZ country when you are traveling there or it’s rude, learn to do the dance of accepting the serving, taking one bite, and leaving it on your plate. Ceremoniously praise the food, pat your stomach, and say it was delicious and fortifying or whatever and you are sooo full. If you eat it, they will fill it again. Yes, a serving is wasted but in their half of the ceremony, they can’t let a guest leave who is still clearing a plate and might want more, but would find it rude to ask.

  37. Psychology student here, 4th year, yes, this is a negative way to enforce feeding and is over controlling of a child’s bodily autonomy. There are tons of correlated effects from this like as you said, guilt, disordered eating (and possibility for future eating disorders), and even causing feelings of resentment for the child. Actually, children have a very good sense of their internal feelings of being full, and thus allowing them to stop and instruct them to take smaller portions next time is the best bet. This allows them to learn these feelings of fullness and know when to stop.

  38. Oh, you think so, Mom? Well, let's go take some of your green bean hotdish down to the shelter and find out...

  39. I'll do you one better - my dad used to mock me by calling me "thimble bladder" and still makes the same joke in public around other people if I need to use the bathroom (I'm 25 years old)

  40. This is how you make kids fat. "Eat all your food even though you've already had enough and you're full. Throwing any away is an insult to starving kids in third world countries."

  41. When I was a kid I didn't like food touching other food on my plate and I was told that it all end's up the same. The thing is though, is that you don't eat food after it's been eaten. Lol

  42. Both of my parents were obese when I was a kid, and they very specifically talked to my teachers about leaving me the hell out of the “happy plate club” so I wouldn’t force myself to over eat and end up like them. Only time I ever got any grief about it was on like a week long school trip in fifth grade where the camp owners were such hard-asses about the “happy plate club” that my teachers ended up seating me with the special dietary needs kids just so they’d leave me alone about it.

  43. Wow that sounds so enlightened of your parents. I really admire people who can think outside the box of how they were raised and realize where they can do better as adults.

  44. My mom used to use that one on me a lot growing up, "Clean your plate. There are starving children in Africa who'd be happy to have that." I was a fat kid and still have a terrible relationship with food as a result. Even as an adult, that thought is in the back of my mind.

  45. Expecting to always finish meals isn't reasonable, however you should try to not let food go to waste if you can. Having left overs is completely fine and planning meals based on what you have is a way to save money :)

  46. I was told this, but I’m a picky eater thanks to autism so my problem wasn’t being full, but being unwilling/unable to deal with the taste/texture of the food. I’m sure there’s a problem rooted in that for me somewhere though. Thank you for the alternatives you brought up.

  47. Hi. Thank you for telling me about this and giving me a different perception on how this can affect people. I can see this comment can be incredibly hurtful when said to someone who cannot control their likes/dislikes in terms of food. I'm glad you liked the alternatives. If you wouldn't mind, I was wondering how you coped with this in scenarios like restaurants and school and what you've done to help with this. Did you have to make your own food a lot?

  48. “The starving kids could have eaten that so you better finish it all so you can rub it in their face that you have food and they don’t”

  49. I never understood the whole “you’re not leaving until you’ve finished!!” It just causes disordered eating and a problematic relationship with food

  50. I'm from the UK too and I saw earlier they're thinking about putting warnings on justeat to stop obesity. How about we stop doing this bs and giving kids such an unhealthy relationship with food instead

  51. I had the same thing from teachers and parents growing up. I used to say "I didn't know, here, give it to them" and hand the plate over and if they did anything but take the plate, I'd drop it on the floor and run off, if they did take the plate. I'd say "hope they enjoy it" and then run off.

  52. It's statements like that that promote obesity! Better to ask the eater to take smaller portions, (or ask for them) than to "guilt" someone into eating more than they want.

  53. Definitely! I find some people say that you must be harsh to get the message through but I disagree. It's better to eat less then go back if you want more than to force yourself.

  54. In my experience not a single person who ever said that cared about starving children or whatever they used as an argument. If they did, they wouldn't be so thoughtlessly trivializing about them.

  55. It was used on me because I was a picky eater, not because of not clearing my plate. In that sense it works. We’re privileged enough to be picky about what we eat and when

  56. Exactly this. I got told the same all the time as a kid, and also "if you don't finish your dinner you won't get dessert". Legit, force feed yourself beyond being comfortable so you can be rewarded by eating more, unhealthy food.

  57. I agree. Overeating and becoming obese is the same as food waste but with health problem on top. Better to compost. Even better to take smaller portion instead.

  58. Starving children in Africa, were they teleported to your dinner table, could have eaten that pile of mediocre food you left on your plate.

  59. I heard this a lot too as a kid, and in the US I think it often ties back to the Great Depression and WWII rationing (which is also probably why it was so prevalent amongst older generations in the UK too); essentially, older generations that remembered living on food budgets didn’t want anything going to waste. Then in the US, there was a major post-war boom and consumerism ramped up to excess. By the 80s, we had a culture thriving on excess materialism but then all these huge aid relief concerts start popping up and everyone starts hearing about starving children in Africa and these viewpoints kind of converge.

  60. I think another big part of it was live aid many people hadn't imagined what true famine would actually look like and I think seeing that really fucked people up. I'm another 90s kid that got that line all the time and I still struggle to leave food on my plate now.

  61. its not just the USA great depression, its literally anywhere or anytime that people don't take food for granted as we do.

  62. I swear I still have the need to finish my plate even if I'm full because of this shit, I just hate not leaving my plate empty.

  63. I have a friend who'd tell that to the manager of domino's years ago whenever they tried to toss out a wrong pizza. He got to keep a good amount of them if it happened during his shift/ in the store at that time.

  64. I grew up in Sweden in the 90's and whenever kids back then didn't finish their meals at home or at school parents just said "think of the children in Africa"

  65. My partner guilts me like this. I finally got him to stop when I pointed out it was causing me extreme pain (I'd get massive stomach cramps and hours of diarhea (sp?) After it). I've ordered half sizes or as little as possible and always have leftovers. He finally got it when it ruined one or our last nights in hawaii because i was in so much pain I couldnt sit up nevermind walk. It took over 3 hours to pass and by then everything we wanted to do closed.

  66. Every restaurant ever wastes a nigh infinite amount more food than any one person will in their whole life.

  67. Yeah it's obnoxious when people constantly browbeat others about their privilege, but you guys wouldn't know anything about that would you

  68. One time I got a bad haircut and was complaining about it at dinner. My little cousin piped up saying “you know some people don’t have hair, my friend has alopecia and I bet she’d love to have a bad haircut.”

  69. I remember being told this when I was a child as well and it bothered me just as much as it bothers you because it does not matter if there are Starving kids someplace because it will not negate the fact that I’m still full.

  70. Some high school classmate tried to tell me that when I didn't want to finish my food in the cantine.

  71. My parents used to say this to me to make me finish my food. They'd say "you're so lucky, and you're just going to throw that food away when other kids are starving. Do you know what it's like to starve?"

  72. Lol a lot of picky eaters here agreeing with you. I’d say this is a popular opinion by the comments. Well I agree it’s not a good way to make the argument, food waste is a MASSIVE issue in North America and lots of people don’t think about the privilege of having such an abundance of food. So much food gets thrown out in NA it’s sickening. I think wasting food is a worse evil than someone telling you to finish your food. Grow up lol. Its not an argument that should be used on kids but as an adult… FINISH THE FUCKING FOOD YOU TAKE..

  73. Not to mention it’s annoying. Like, I was being fed portions the same as my dad’s when I was 9. NINE. I could not eat even half my plate. I always got hit with the “well all the starving children in Africa…” line. I started telling my family to do something about feeding all the starving kids if it really bothered them that much, and eventually they stopped. It makes me feel guilty when I waste even a single bite of food because I know someone out there hasn’t eaten in days—but I’m not going to purposefully overeat and make myself sick because of it.

  74. I once threw up at the kitchen table because my mom was in a bad mood that day, and when I told her I felt too sick to eat dinner, she threw a fit, saying “You just don’t like my cooking. We should just order pizza tomorrow because your such a spoiled brat”.

  75. I always found this argument dumb. If you're eating when you're full, it's like you're wasting food. Can't you just give leftovers to food drives or homeless shelters?

  76. If someone says that to me, I would just tell them that I could literally not care less. You want to be an asshole, I’ll be an asshole right back.

  77. I feel like it’s ok to say it to a kid whose being a picky eater. Like they won’t eat the dinner cause their food touched, it’s to remind them that their lucky that that’s all they have to worry about.

  78. I was at a Christmas family dinner where one of my cousins (who had his plate made for him - he was about 9-10) and he ate until he was full then asked if he could go play. His dad - my uncle, looked at his plate and said, "nope theres way too much food left over, sit until you're done"

  79. I had a similar experience. A teaching walking up to me as I was throwing away some potatoes i hadn't finished. She didn't state what was wrong, only went like "what are you doing?!". She had other problems too, and I later learned she had quit teaching.

  80. If my children are going to be picky and not eat their food I will tell them about the poverty stricken who don't get to chose where their meals comes from. It's a learning about gratefulness opportunity and to be taught that not everyone gets whatever they want and they have to deal with it. I do this because I am in poverty and cannot afford for my child to reject a meal.

  81. It’s a way of acknowledging privilege that has existed for some time. What they’re trying to say is essentially that: you take for granted what other people can only dream of. I guess people only like it when you point out other peoples privilege.

  82. Don't hate the player hate the game. Mabye if we didn't have a system that let so many children starve at the expense of profit there wouldn't be a problem to begin with.

  83. This is dumb. You should eat all your food or don’t take more than you can eat you so don’t waste it.

  84. I can relate to this soooo much. My brother do this alot. He always try to portray me like a monster if I didn't finish my food. I got some stomach problems just because pf this

  85. Why get food you wont eat? No wonder we have a society that allows hunger to exist when we encourage waste

  86. Sorry, as a teacher who is literally on a school trip right now, wasted food drives me crazy. Little shits load their plates like they are Andre the Giant, throw most of it away. Yeah, some need to be reminded of their privilege and to not be greedy shits. In your case ok. But actual food wasters, I am on them like flies on shit.

  87. It’s not a nice thing to say? Why? Because it makes you confront the reality of the statement?

  88. The question is why people use it as a guilt tripping method. To an extreme, it can cause eating disorders.

  89. Because it makes people feel guilty for practicing healthy eating habits and listening to the needs of their bodies. It can drive some people (especially kids) to overeat. That’s why it’s a shitty thing to say.

  90. I don't do that. I just shame people who don't eat their food by saying it's a fucking waste. Why buy food if you're only going to eat two bites and then make me eat the rest later?

  91. People shouldn't waste food either. If you get a ton of food, you should give it to a homeless shelter. I understand what you're saying, but it's not cool to waste food.

  92. That's not what I was saying. I mean that if someone leaves something on their plate don't guilt them into eating it and instead say something like "take less next time". I'm not encouraging food waste I'm discouraging emotional blackmail as a way to force people to eat food/finish their meal if they're full

  93. I strongly dislike when people pressure you to eat/not eat, same for drinking alcohol. (I can understand encouraging someone not to drink too much, or if a relatively with a health issue has a bad diet.) But if I'm at a restaurant or dinner party, leave me and my food alone, and keep your opinions about it to yourself. I wont preach about the paleo diet to you, if you don't bother me.

  94. I always got this too, I'm a picky eater and at school they didn't let us take what we wanted they just threw shit on a tray and judged us. I eventually got tired of people telling me not to throw ot away that I just started selling it and if I couldn't find anyone willing to pay I just gave it away. Amazing how now that I'm older I never throw shit away because I pick my own damn food and I'm considerably better at knowing how much I can eat than Sharon the lunch lady who probably, cooked the last kid who threw away food, into the school's lunches.

  95. Forcefeeding yourself to avoid throwing away food doesn't help anything. You've still made/taken more food than necessary and you've still thrown the extra away, you've just turned your stomach into the trash can. The food is still gone, it's not saved for later, so that ship has sailed. You've just become the garbage receptacle.

  96. Yeah I'm pretty sure that saying played a part in our obesity crisis. Instead of eating until we are full (which is normal and healthy) we overeat, causing weight gain.

  97. It perpetuates obesity. The "make a clean plate" initiatives do the same thing. Cook less? Buy less? Get an appropriate amount of food to start off and go back for more later?

  98. Totally agree. It’s the same thing as someone dismissing your feelings because there’s people out there who have it worse. Like when you say you have been feeling sad and someone responds “you don’t have that right because you have a great life and there is starving children in Africa” yes there is but that doesn’t negate my feelings and thanks for making it worse.

  99. It probably started innocently with mothers seeing their kids picking at food and fearing the child will become malnourished or starved. You say something that sounds rational and compelling but it's actually ridiculous.

  100. "Think of the children!" Roger Smith (smug smile): oh yeah the children (while eating the rest of the food). (Pause, looks at his legs). Damn, just direct to my tights... I wish I was skinny... Like starving children (keeps eating).

  101. Nah. Food waste is one of the biggest issues in the world while people are starving globally. Im gonna make you feel bad you didnt finish your 3rd bread roll and 8th and 9th chicken fingers

  102. I agree it's perhaps too on the chin to use freely. I would also contend your counter examples e.g. 'would you like a smaller portion next time?' are too passive to cement the point. Especially with kids.

  103. I always hated this. I'm a firm believer that if you make yourself a plate, with portions YOU choose, yes you should eat it all (without making yourself sick). But if you are given a huge amount of food by someone else, that you never would have picked for yourself, it's just asinine.

  104. This mentality has legitimately caused me to gain quite a bit of weight over the years. I have a REALLY hard time throwing any food out, I always feel like I have to eat everything before it goes bad so it isn’t wasted as someone else could have eaten it, blah blah blah.

  105. The only time ive heard that sentence was sarcastically and mostly when talking about either inedible objects or food that has been burned and destroyed beyond recognition

  106. This line of thinking only taught me to be an asshole as a kid. I would just angrily shout "well if they'd enjoy it so much they can dig through the trash to eat it cause i've had enough." and then angrily throw my food out.

  107. If its a small amount of food then yeah i agree but if its like a quarter of someone's meal or more then i have to disagree, not wasting food is the easiest thing to do and wasting is just a shit thing to do

  108. I have never heard anyone say that. But then again, being Dutch, we simply don't care enough about other people's opinions to be guilt tripped in the first place.

  109. My mom used that on me as a child and she used it on me again when I told her the stress from school made me suicidal. I will never forgive her for this.

  110. When I was little my father would tell me that I needed to eat the food on my plate, because "children were starving in Europe". Now granted, I was the pickiest eater and I get that he was frustrated because I didn't eat much. However, he did not take kindly to my suggestion that we pack it up and send it to them. I wasn't going for sarcasm (at the time), just being a practical child. But, I agree, shaming people into eating is not kind, nor healthy. It's this type of attitude that leads to eating issues with people. I have a sister who has a terrible weight problem, but cannot leave the table with food on her plate.

  111. I agree! I grew up in a Catholic school and there were certain priests that would make us eat everything on our plate (Father Valentine!) and would stand by the trash can and shake your milk carton to see if you put any food in there and if so you had to sit down and eat it, the gross shit in the milk carton. All because THERE ARE STARVING CHILDREN IN AFRICA!

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