Food Focus Explores South America and Africa

In the December 2015 issue of School Nutrition, we delved into the world of tropical foods, which, surprisingly, encompasses a much broader region than you might think. Within the pages of the magazine, we explored tropical regions of North America, the Caribbean, India and Southeast Asia. However, you can also find tropical regions in Africa, as well as South America.

South America

The cuisine in South America is influence by foods of Native Americans, Africans, Spanish and Italian, and can vary widely from one geographic region to the next. However, Carne Asada, or grilled meat, is consumed across the continent.

Specifically, the tropical regions of South America are divided into the coastal areas (both Atlantic and Pacific) and the Amazon area. In the coastal area, you’ll find consumption of Ceviche (fish cooked via acidic liquid), Tostones (fried plantain slices) and Sopa Paraguaya, which is similar to corn bread. In the Amazon region, people often consume native meats, including turtle and capybara.

Across the continent, you’ll find a number of “exotic” tropical fruits native to the area, including guava, pineapple, papaya, mango and elderberry. A great number of crops can be grown in South America’s tropical region, so you’ll often find dishes made with potatoes, sweet potatoes and grains such as rice, corn and wheat.


Across the 16 countries of West Africa, it’s very common for families to grow and raise their own foods. The typical dishes are heavily influenced by the history of West Africa, as indicated by the Arab and European influence.

West African foods, though they can differ from country to country, often start with a base of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers. Spices play less of a role than in North African cuisine, but ginger, coriander and thyme play a role. Chilli peppers, on the other hand, are prominent. Common dishes include fufu, made from cassava and yam; groundnut stew, a peanut-based stew; and jollof rice, which is made with rice, tomatoes, tomato paste and onions.

The countries in East Africa, as well as the horn of Africa, are geographically diverse but, as always, share a few similarities. In Tanzania, you’re more likely to see spicy foods that are rich with coconut milk, while maize, millet and sorghum are prevalent in Kenya. Uganda is heavily influenced by English, Arab and Indian cultures.

Regions in the horn of Africa are more culturally linked than in East Africa, so the cuisines are more similar across the countries. You might see Tsebhis, or stews, served with injera (flatbread made from teff, wheat or sorghum), as well as halva, a popular confection made from either nut butter or flour and butter, combined with sugar.

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