|This post was originally published by The Punch on 8 May, 2012.
Yesterday, along with thousands of other Australians, I began the Live Below the Line challenge. The idea is to live on just $10 worth of food from Monday to Friday.Meagre harvest… $8.61 worth of mind-numbingly bland food.
Why? To stand in solidarity with the 1.3 billion people who live in extreme poverty, which is calculated by the World Bank as living on what you can buy for two Australian dollars per day. Considering the average Australian household’s weekly spend for food is around $200, and a skim latte can set you back $3.50, you can see living on $10 for the week is quite an undertaking.
So, what did I do with my $10? Yesterday, I took myself off to the supermarket and bought the following:
- Rolled oats
- Two pears
- Two carrots
- Three brushed potatoes
- A soup pack on sale for $1 including celery, a turnip, a couple of potatoes, an onion and carrots
- Ten green tea bags
- And a packet of red lentils
My total came to $8.61.
I decided to buy oats as they are quite filling and low GI. Later, I plan to puree the pears, to add some sweetener to my porridge.
Next, I knew I was going to need some sort of hot beverage, so I bought green tea. For $1.89, you can get ten tea bags, which allows two per day, and I recycle the bags throughout the day.
On Monday morning, I made vegetable soup to last for the week. I “sweated” the onions in water, added the lentils – great for protein and bulking up the meal – and threw chopped veggies in. I have frozen half the soup and refrigerated the rest. I plan to eat soup for lunch and dinner each day.
Some people have asked if the $10 has to cover things like clean water or energy, and I’m grateful it doesn’t! I have access to water, a gas stove, and all of my cooking utensils. But for those who live in extreme poverty, this small amount of money is not just for food. It needs to stretch across shelter, health care, education, clean water and sanitation, so this experience doesn’t truly compare.
Still, so far, my take out is this: it doesn’t make sense for anyone to suffer from hunger in 2012, and to be lacking in the basic choices and opportunities we have. Taking the Live Below the Line challenge presents a great opportunity to build empathy for the world’s poorest.
When I saw extreme poverty first hand, I was impacted for life. It was difficult to express what it means to live in abject poverty to those who haven’t seen it.
Live Below the Line is also a good way to start a meaningful conversation about what can be done about the number of people who go to bed hungry each night. I, along with many, ask why is it still the case that a fifth of the world’s population live like “that”, when I live like “this”?
Haven’t enough children been sponsored and enough celebrities put on benefit concerts? It is easy to become jaded because the end of poverty isn’t just about encouraging more individuals to give more donations to more causes abroad.
Rather, making poverty history can only be realised if our focus is to change the global systems, policies and structures that keep the poor, poor. Things like trade rules, our food production system and considering how better to spend our foreign aid.
And that’s what I’ll be pondering as I eat my porridge without brown sugar and pine for cracked pepper on my soup.
You can sponsor Julie for Live Below the Line here.