Living Below the Line: Three days in

In 2012, poor nutrition claimed the lives of more than 2.9 million children.
That’s 45% of all child deaths in the developing world.

From April 28 to May 2, my husband and I, along with 25,000 other people, are living on $1.50 each per day for the Global Poverty Project’s “Live Below The Line” challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to raise awareness for the 1 billion people in poor countries who live in extreme poverty, under $1.50 – the poverty line – each day. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

My husband and I are creatures of habit as we live below the line.

We miss a good meal and feel frustrated about eating beans, pasta and rice.  Snacks have been eliminated and, at times, we falsely believe we are hungry.  I am feeling incredibly selfish as I write this knowing of all those that suffer hunger throughout the world. Living below the line for nearly three days is hardly a comparison to the 842 million people worldwide daily suffering from hunger.

As a child, I grew up in a family of six children. Althoug, we didn’t technically live below the poverty line, there were times my parents struggled to feed us all. We ate a lot of pasta and oatmeal, but I am grateful that we were fed, had our health and a loving home. Globally, poor nutrition is the cause of death in nearly half of all children ages one through five.

After college, my husband and I built a fairly comfortable life. We were so caught up in this life that we did not always stop to consider how others were living – richer or poorer. After all, we had a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator and financial security. Why look outside the window?

Photo We are eating Egg Drop Soup with Rice

My husband and I have been eating egg drop soup.

This week, our Live Below the Line diet primarily consists of beans and rice as staples. Our budget covers food and drink; not car gas, a mortgage, electricity and other daily living expenses. We are in an artificial environment that will never truly emulate the experience of an impoverished person.

So, what is the Live Below the Line experience doing?

It is forcing us out of the comfort zone of our daily existence; triggering a greater understanding of ourselves, our life experiences, and ultimately raising awareness of hunger. My normal culinary tastes would suffer if I had to survive on beans and rice. I know this sounds trivial, but rice is too generic and I have never liked the texture or taste of beans. We are eating pasta covered in crushed tomatoes. Where’s the alfredo sauce?

We crave the familiarity of our normal diet. My daughter teases me while eating her breakfast: “look Mom, you have to watch me eat toaster strudel on your first day.” The weather is warmer. My husband catches barbeque fever yearning to grill hamburgers outdoors. No meat = No cookout.

We miss the social aspects tied to eating. My son and I have a playdate at McDonald’s with a good friend and her child. This is outside of my $1.50 per day budget. My friend apologizes for ordering food because she feels bad that I am not eating anything. I don’t normally like fast food but suddenly, I want a meal. Why? I feel uncomfortable not eating while others around me enjoy their meal.

Globally, one in eight people suffer hunger despite a world food supply sufficient to feed everyone. For many, food is not a choice, a pleasure or a social outing. Food is a means of survival.

Our Live Below the Line experience serves as a constant reminder of those suffering from extreme poverty.

Stay tuned for my final blog post: Reflections on my experience.