Living Below the Line with My Family
“I’m going to send my grandchildren a food parcel.” – my mother
“Can I give you a loan so you can buy more food? Very low interest rate, you can pay me back over the next month.” – my boss
“Would you like to come over for dinner – is that allowed?” – my friend
My well meaning friends have found it strange to think that we – Harry, me and our three kids aged 13, 11 and 6 – are about to embark on a week without food.
I, too, thought it would be extremely difficult to live on just $1.50 per person per day, but after undertaking three simple steps, I don’t think it’s going to be as hard as everyone thinks. I have:
1) analyzed the cost of each item I plan to buy – rather than just choosing the brand I prefer
2) carefully planned our menu for the week, using the same ingredients like rice or pasta several times so there’s no waste – rather than thinking I have to have a different meat and a different carb each evening
3) allowed myself time before each meal to make things from scratch – rather than buying jars of spaghetti sauce, or similar time-saving products
Although our menu for next week looks very different from last week’s, my children won’t starve and I won’t need any extra money to get by. While we’d like to be social, we also don’t need to depend on a meal from a neighbor to bulk up our diet.
In fact, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m looking forward to reminding my kids that most people in the world have the same meal every night of the week – for their whole lives, not just for 5 days. I’m looking forward to that slightly gnawing feeling we’ll have before meals that will remind us why we need to eat – not just consuming more food because 6pm has rolled around. I’m looking forward to going without some luxuries – remembering that 60% of the world may have never enjoyed a good cut of beef or the finest dark chocolate.
However, let it be known that while I think we can complete the Live Below the Line Challenge, this is not something I would like my children to have to live with year round. Our diet will be high-carb, low-protein and low in vitamins and minerals. Not ideal for healthy growth and disease prevention. Having worked in poverty alleviation for nearly ten years, I’ve seen the impact of a subsistence existence on thousands of children. Full height is never achieved, teeth rot without a healthy digestive system, stomachs bloat due to insufficient protein, scurvy and anemia can result from vitamin deficiency and diarrhea is an ever-present risk due to unclean water supplies.
So, although living on $1.50 per person per day is possible, it is not desirable. Let’s continue to work toward a better future for our brothers and sisters across the globe. With their own drive and our support they can and will step up into a higher standard of living – so they, too, can enjoy a balanced diet and their children can thrive.