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Poverty: The Live Below the Line Challenge

Updated on April 10, 2013
The face of poverty
The face of poverty | Source

Poverty

Imagine putting your child to bed hungry every night. Imagine having to choose between a roof over your head or food on the table. These are just some of the choices facing the over who 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. That number is staggering and heartbreaking. I find it to be an impossible number to fathom and an even more impossible one to communicate to my children. But it is a concept I need for them to understand. It is closer to home to them then they might think. All three of my girls are adopted and living below the line of poverty was a very real part of their past. Only my oldest daughter vaguely remembers what it was like, but it is a distant memory to her now that she lives a life of abundance. The saying "There but for the grace of God go I," rings too true.

Gratitude isn't enough. First we need to rekindle the spark of empathy in each one of us so we are motivated to take action. We all need to take a turn to see what it is like to "Live Below the Line."


For those living in poverty, this bowl of rice might be their food ration for the entire day.
For those living in poverty, this bowl of rice might be their food ration for the entire day. | Source

The Below the Line Initiative

I like to think of myself as a socially aware person who contributes when I can. We routinely donate to food banks and other charities, but that is arms length social activism. It allows me to think I am helping others without actually having to get my hands dirty or fully identifying with those that I think I am helping. And then I stumbled across the "Live Below the Line," website.

It was by happy accident that I came upon an article about a Canadian actor who was preparing for a week on the "Live Below the Line," challenge and it caught my eye. The article went on to detail his plan to live on a budget of $1.75/day for food, which is below the line of poverty, to draw attention to the world poverty crisis. I was excited to discover that this is not a one man crusade, but a five country initiative to draw attention and raise funds to a cause we can no longer ignore. But why was I just hearing about this now? Everyone one of us needs to get the word out.

Have you ever lived in poverty?

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How to Take Part

Taking part in the "Live Below the Line," poverty awareness initiative is easy...that is as easy as living in poverty is, or at least eating like you live in poverty. From April 29th - to May 3rd commit to a food budget of no more then $1.75 per day, that's $8.75 in total. This sounds scary, and that's the point. Imagine if this was your day to day food budget. The idea behind this initiative is that if we understand what it is like to live in poverty we will be more inclined to reach out and help others.

Eggs will feature highly in our diet during the five day challenge.
Eggs will feature highly in our diet during the five day challenge. | Source

Grocery List for Living Below the Line

There is no real way to prepare for poverty, but those taking part in Living Below the Line have the luxury of taking the time to think about what they will buy. The website has some useful tips on foods to consider living on during your five day stretch of poverty.

Here are some of the foods I plan on purchasing for my family of five. We will have a budget $43.75 for food for five days. It is worth noting that when you pool your resources your food dollars go further. So why not consider throwing a Live Below the Line potluck party for your final meal on day five and share what you have left with anyone you know taking on this poverty awareness challenge.

Living Below the Line of Poverty Grocery List:

  • potatoes $2
  • dried black beans $2
  • dried lentils $2
  • 2 cans chick peas $1.50
  • pasta $1.50
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes $1
  • rice $3
  • wraps $5
  • bread crumbs $2
  • bag of onions $1
  • carrots $2
  • 1 jar of peanut butter $3
  • ground beef $5
  • curry powder $.50
  • fajita spice $.50
  • skim milk powder $3
  • 1 bag of apples $4
  • 2 dozen eggs $4
  • instant coffee (If I don't manage to it in one cup of this a day, my husband may not survive) $1.25
  • for a total of $43.75

* Please note this is my best guess at what I can afford, there may be cuts, like coffee. There will be a number of sacrifices for us as we try to eat as much organic food as possible and eat very little wheat and dairy. Making this list and thinking about my food choices helped me realize, that affordability and healthy choices often do not go hand in hand.

The Rules of Poverty

To engage in the experience of living below the line of poverty fully a few ground rules have to be established. The website goes into further details, but here are some of the big ones.

1. You are not allowed to accept donations of food.

2. You can drink as much tap water as you like, bottled water counts towards your food budget.

3. Factor in the cost per gram of spices, herbs and salt and pepper. There are no freebies.

4. Cigarettes cost money, so unless you are willing to use your entire budget on a pack of smokes, they're out too.

We'll be eating a lot of these.
We'll be eating a lot of these. | Source

Menu Planning and Meal Ideas

Living in poverty is challenging on every level, and I know all too well that meal planning takes on a whole new meaning when every single penny counts.

Here are a few meal ideas and our tentative family menu plan for our five days spent living below the line of poverty.

*As an interesting aside, we are considering home schooling our kids for this week for various reasons, primarily hunger leading to unacceptable behaviour ex. stealing other peoples lunches, acting out. Obviously we don't plan on letting our kids get to the point wear their hunger pains cause them to steal, however, part of this project is to walk in the shoes of those effected by poverty which means feeling hungry. I do realize the pull of other children's delicious lunches might be too much for them and cause them to fall off the wagon, thus the home school consideration. It also brings up the interesting point that hungry children do not perform well in school further showing how poverty is the gateway to a lot of our social problems.

Day 1

Breakfast: 2 peanut butter and sliced apple wraps, glass of powdered skim milk

Lunch: 1 hard boiled egg, carrot sticks, black beans and rice, water

Dinner: 2 curried chickpea and potato wraps, curried rice, water

Day 2

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, home fried potatoes, black beans, glass of powdered skim milk

Lunch: black bean, onion and lentil soup, toasted wrap chips, 1/2 apple, water

Dinner: spaghetti sauce with ground beef, pasta, water

Day 3

Breakfast: 2 peanut butter and sliced apple wraps, glass of powdered skim milk

Lunch: hummus - made from chickpeas and peanut butter, rice, wraps, carrot sticks, water

Dinner: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots, water

Day 4

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, home fried potatoes, black beans, glass of powdered skim milk

Lunch: lentils, potatoes, carrots, onion, water

Dinner: left over spaghetti sauce and pasta and meat loaf, water

Day 5

Breakfast: 2 peanut butter and sliced apple wraps, glass of powdered skim milk

Lunch: black bean, lentil and onion soup, any remaining eggs and apples, water

Dinner: crockpot remaining beans, lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, carrot, onion and curry spice

As you can see our diet will be extremely bean and legume heavy during this five day stretch with little variation in our menu. The beans won't be a stretch, but what will be challenging is not having access to fresh fruit and vegetables whenever we want and the lack of variety. It will be a real eye opener for all of us not to be able to hop to the market and pick up whatever food we are in the mood for that day.

Put your money wear your mouth is and help end poverty.
Put your money wear your mouth is and help end poverty. | Source

Put your Money From Your Mouth Where it Counts

Empathy for those living in poverty is a good start, but it won't put food on the table. Why not take the money you would have spent during those five days of living below the line of poverty and donate it to this cause or your local food bank. If you're willing to take it a step further take your cause door to door and ask others to donate generously and even join the cause. Change can happen.

Will you take part in the Live Below the Line initiative?

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    • Thundermama profile image
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      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Thank you teaches12345, we too eat pretty simply, but try to eat as much fresh and organic as possible which is just not an option on this budget. Thanks for the lovely comment and being a regular reader. Much appreciated.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      What a wonderful challenge. We live on simple foods in general, nothing fancy or processed here. Although, to live that way because you have to is another story. Great post and very powerfully stated!

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 4 years ago from Wisconsin

      You're welcome, TM. I enjoy passing on what little I know.... or maybe I just like talking about myself... :)

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      LongTimeMother, we do have homelessness issues in Canada, not to the same extent that it appears to be in the U.S., but part of that has to do with are smaller population, and part of that has to do with weather. Existing outside in most of Canada is very difficult during the winter. I live close to a major city that has a number of shelters that are always full. I believe a society is judged by how they treat their most downtrodden, which means we are in a sad state of affairs.

      swordsbane, you are truly living a frugal life and showing that it can be done and I am very glad you have medical benefits. It seems like a now win situation for the working poor and an impossible mission to get ahead. I wish you luck in your struggles and appreciate you commenting and sharing your budget on here.

    • swordsbane profile image

      William Grant 4 years ago from Wisconsin

      I currently live on less than $10/hr 40 hrs a week. My grocery budget is around $20/wk. My gas budget is $30/wk. I live in a low-rent apartment complex and I survive on around $250/wk. The "indulgences" in my budget... if you can call it that are cable TV and a dreadful Dorito's habit.

      Now I admit, I am single and don't have any dependents. I do however have two cats and have to pay for food and cat litter.

      It's not comfortable, but it works. I don't consider this living "below the poverty line" because these days, it's hard to know where the poverty line is. Many people technically earn less than I do, but because they get help from the state, the amount of money they receive each month is more than what I get. I earn less than I did as a temp employee, yet I have a higher wage. This is because as a temp, I wasn't paying for medical benefits. Now I get benefits, but my take-home pay is less. As far as the state is concerned, my pay has gone up, even though I'm 'earning' less money than I did before.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I saw a tv documentary about entire families sleeping in their cars in the US. Hard to imagine how they could prepare a healthy meal. So sad. If I passed a car that looked like a family was sleeping in it, I have to admit I would invite them to come to my house.

      I do not understand how there can be such poverty and suffering in a country like America without the rest of society saying, "Here, we'll give you a hand." Do you have a high level of homeless families in Canada?

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Interesting idea about the fire. I did briefly contemplate picking things I didn't have to cook as I though energy costs should be factored in. So much to think about when every penny counts. Preparing for this has been a real eye opener. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Much appreciated.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      Hi Thundermama. Great hub.

      Are you going to build a little fire in your backyard to cook these foods? Living below the poverty line often involves having no fuel or electricity for cooking (in places where power companies are quick to disconnect for late payment of bills). They may not have a fridge either, but I don't think the risk of food poisoning is worth including that in the exercise. :)

      Home schooling for the duration is a great idea!

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      kidscrafts thanks so much for being one of my regular readers and commenting. You are so right, the thought of children being hungry at school is heartbreaking. It's the start of a cycle that is so hard to break.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Poverty is a terrible thing but most of all I feel sad for the kids living in those conditions because if they don't have enough food, they can't concentrate at school; if they can't concentrate at school, they don't get their diploma, etc. and the circle continue.

      With the situation in the economy right now it's not good either.

      You are right that it's important to help food bank to help the people most in need in our society!

      Great article!

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Thank you kindly MrsBrownParlour for reading and the lovely compliment.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Truly valuable topic and well-written.

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Good point Comfort B, sausage links sound like a good inexpensive option for protein. Where I live in Canada you can buy a tube of ground beef for $5 at Wal-mart, it is not top quality stuff, but it does the job. I have to admit that I have never had sausages from a can.

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      bravewarrior, thank you for reading and commenting. You comment really struck a chord in me as you are so right, food prices all depend on where you live. I live in Canada and these prices were based on a store we have called Food Basics and Wal-mart prices. It's interesting because I always assumed food prices were cheaper across the board in the US. Obviously this is not the case. Thanks again for your input.

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      When you live in poverty, beef is not an option. Try sausage links in cans. That's all most can afford.

      Great hub on a very present issue. Voted up and interesting.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      This is a great idea, but none of the items you list above sell as inexpensively here in Central Florida. Even if I were to buy white eggs, instead of the brown cage free that I buy, I couldn't get 2 dozen for $4. In fact, I couldn't buy any of the items listed above for the prices you show. :-(

    • Thundermama profile image
      Author

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Thank so much bb for reading and sharing. I too have walked this road and hope this hub gets the word out.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love this hub and I love the spirit in which it was written. I have lived this life before and it is a challenge to say the least. I am sharing this on the H.O.W. website as a wake up call for all to participate. Well done my friend.