This week, more than 20,000 people are expected to participate in the campaign to raise money and awareness for global poverty by “living below the line.” That is, they will take on the challenge of spending no more than $1.50 day on food–-the amount that the World Bank identifies as the extreme poverty line.
1.4 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty. In the United States, over 1.2 million households—over 3.8 million people—live on less than what we spend on a latte.
Ben Affleck and Josh Groban are doing it. My friend and colleague, Jayda Siggers is doing it. She asked me to do it with her.
I said no.
I’m not going to live below the line. I’m not going to take on the challenge.
I choose not to.
I choose not to because I have a 7-month old who is exclusively breastfed. As I talked this through with Jayda—a nutritionist—she cautioned that the radical drop in calories overnight will cause enough stress to decrease milk production. It will also compromise the fatty acid profile in the milk that my son needs to grow.
I have this choice. In fact, I have many choices in what I feed my children everyday.600 million children in developing countries and 2.8 million children in the US living in extreme poverty do not. And while I will not choose to live below the line to raise awareness for the plight of the poorest in the world, I choose to give my voice.
I support the 20,000 strong who are living on $1.50 a day to TRY and understand a shade of what it means to live on the brink. Everyday.
Over the weekend, Jayda and I exchanged many messages on how she will tackle the week. She browsed through supermarket flyers looking for deals, went to the discount grocery stores. We thought about bulk, calories, nutrient profile. And how to stretch a lone sweet potato, for an entire week. For the first time, I truly understood the compulsion that is the Dollar Menu—insidious caloric efficiency and ease. The convenience of “highly processed and cheap” compounds into the health epidemic that is weighing on us. And affects the poorest.
With $1.50 to live on, considerations such as “am I getting enough nutrients?” are a luxury. Hunger is a singular point in the constellation of effects of extreme poverty. Mental health, education, child mortality are only a few others.
What can we do? We can support the organizations that exist to fight extreme poverty. We can write about the challenge on our Facebook walls, our Twitter feeds. Share this article. Share many articles. Talk about it.
Understanding is the first step to removing the distance of abstraction. Try to do it. Even for a day.
The Live Below the Line website will show you how.
Follow Jayda’s challenge here and see what she's eating for the week in the photo above.