The soldiers said that the food collection whip around was voluntary
Ethiopian troops in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, have distributed food aid bought with their own salaries.
About 400 bags of sorghum were handed out to about 500 people in southern Baynile district.
An Ethiopian soldier said his colleagues had organised the collection to help their neighbours in need.
Ethiopian troops, who support Somalia's interim government, are not popular and the food was accepted with surprise, the BBC's Mohamed Moalimuu reports.
The UN says more than a third of all Somalis rely on outside assistance and the urban poor are finding it difficult to get enough to eat.
Since their intervention in Somalia 17 months ago, when Islamists were ousted from power, Ethiopia troops have struggled to exert their control.
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled continued sporadic fighting.
In the latest violence, one Ethiopian soldier was killed and another wounded when a hand grenade was thrown at a junction near the area where the food was being distributed.
Two civilians were wounded when the soldiers returned fire.
There were deadly riots in Mogadishu last week because of soaring food prices.
But correspondents say the situation has calmed down as traders are now accepting the local Somali shilling. Their earlier insistence on US dollars had sparked the unrest.
The UN Food Security Analysis Unit has warned that the country is facing a major famine caused by a prolonged drought and high food costs.
Representatives from the government and Islamist opposition are attending a peace conference in neighbouring Djibouti, but are refusing to talk directly.