Objectives: To evaluate nutritional status and body composition as indicators of quality of life among poor children served by neighborhood soup kitchens in La Plata, Argentina.Methods: From April to November 2004, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 608 healthy children from 1-11 years of age who were being served by two neighborhood soup kitchens in the outlying areas of the city of La Plata. The sample was stratified by age and sex. Height-for-age, weight-for age, and weight-for-height, were measured, as well as BMI, muscle mass and adipose tissue. Z-scores were computed for the data. Odds ratios and the respective 95% confidence intervals were calculated.Results: Prevalence of low weight-for-age was 9%; low weight-for-height, 3%; and low height-for-age, 15%. The prevalence of overweight and obesity were 12.5% and 7.1%, respectively. Among the study sample, 47.2% had low muscle mass and 20.4% had low adipose tissue. Among overweight and obese children, adipose tissue was 34.3% higher than that of the reference population, while muscle mass was 12.5% lower.Conclusions: Undernutrition and obesity are both found among the community of children studied. The high prevalence of delayed growth (i.e., low height-for-age), undernutrition (i.e., low weight-for-age), and the acute lack of muscle mass even among overweight and obese children, seem to be part of the consequences of an inevitable process that unfolds in the face of adverse living conditions.