Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Below the Line - Who's Hungry?

Did you know that there are well over a billion people in the world who live on the US equivalent of $1.50 per day?

Let’s just put that into some perspective….

The average starbucks coffee costs $3.50.  Can you live off of that alone for three days?

A value meal from McDonald’s cost $7.25.   Delicious, I’m sure, but will it hold you over for five days?

And if you want to really splurge and go for the Tour of Italy at Olive Garden… well, you just blew your food budget for nearly 12 days.  Good thing pasta is filling.

I don’t know that we can fully comprehend what extreme poverty is like.  Even those in the United States who are considered poor based on our federal poverty guidelines would be considered rather wealthy by the poor in developing countries. 

And those of us who fall in that huge expanse called middle class could not fathom the choices that some people have to make to survive.  During my last two week grocery shopping trip, I counted up, just out of curiosity, the things that Micah had asked for that I said yes to.  From ice cream sandwiches to special snacks for school, from lunchables to cutie oranges, from pricey breakfast cereal to a certain kind of juice boxes, he had weaseled me out of more than 60 bucks…. And my willpower was fairly strong that day.  What if he had to survive on less?  What if I had to?

A couple of weeks ago, Jay read something about a new campaign by the Global Poverty Project called Live Below the Line.  The challenge was to raise awareness (and money if you can) for world hunger by attempting to live off of $1.50 worth of food a day for five days (He didn’t read that part so he’s going for seven!).  Jay started right then comparison shopping, looking through advertisements, and making his grocery list for the week.

I thought I would share his experience in living below the line.

A few things to note up front –

First, the $1.50 that many in the world live on per day has to cover much more than food – it also has to pay for healthcare, shelter, education and transportation.  But this project is just to give people a taste of what it’s like to not have everything desired at your fingertips.

Secondly, those in developing countries don’t have the luxuries we enjoy like hopping in the car and heading off to a supercenter to pick up whatever might be on sale.  So this experiment in no way mimics the life that so many are forced to live, but it will get you to thinking!

Jay wanted Micah and I to go about our regular routine, so I went to the grocery Sunday night and got items for our breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  I also picked up our vitamins, cleaning products, and toiletries.  I spent $149.32.

Jay, taking forever to shop, carefully made the following purchases –

One dozen eggs….. $1.88

Off-brand White bread (cheaper than wheat)…. $1.28

Jiffy Cornbread Mix…. $0.54

Pinto beans…. $1.38

Off brand sliced cheese (16 ct.) ….. $1.25

Package of bologna ….. $0.98

5 pks. of Ramen noodles…. $1.00

3 stalks of corn…. $0.45

White onion…. $0.51

Total: $9.27
Jay had $1.23 remaining and decided to keep that to “buy” condiments from our refrigerator and pantry (mustard, mayo, salt and pepper) when needed.  He carefully planned his meals (rationing what he has to last 7 days), and make him a jug of (can you imagine?) tap water!

Jay is currently at the end of day two of his project.  He has so far enjoyed such delicacies as bologna sandwiches, soup, and beans and cornbread.  While he has said that his meals have tasted fine, it’s been hard having no snack foods or fruit, he’s pretty sure the monotony of the food will get pretty boring soon, and he’s worried about the huge amount of sodium he has to eat every day.  He also mentioned that is has been a little difficult to stomach the white bread, which we haven't had in our house in over two years.

I know there have been moments when he has been hungry, but hasn’t wanted to dip into his limited supply, and there have definitely been times when I felt incredible guilt for eating my nice dinner in front of him (although remembering the countless times he has sat next to me, eating milk and cookies while I enjoyed apple slices, suddenly made me feel better!).

I will keep you posted on his progress, and should you feel so inclined to join him in living below the line, see the following website…


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