How much do you spend on food?


Having a celebratory jägerbomb or two on May Day, fuelling an essay crisis with Hassan’s and Red Bull, indulging in some roast duckling for dinner at my college –these are all things that I had to go without this week. Instead, I took part in a challenge called Live Below the Line.

Live Below the Line involves living on just £1 per day for 5 days – this figure of £1 is adjusted for purchasing power parity, representing the global poverty line under which over 1.2 billion people live. We are challenged to spend £1 per day on food and drink, a difficult enough task in itself, but for those living in real poverty this pound must cover medicine, clothing, education, and any other necessary expenditures. The difficulty of such a life is incomprehensible to us here. One thing is for sure – I’ll think twice before ever calling myself a ‘poor student’ again.

Photo/ Jonny Dower

So, the week has been one of careful budgeting and fairly bland meals. However, planning meals with others certainly made things easier – over 30 of us took part together this week as part of a new social justice initiative called Just Love. Unfortunately, one fellow participant made a purchasing blunder that will surely go down in Live Below the Line history, as he spent an entire pound on two ‘Little Gem’ iceberg lettuces while in a bleary state of early morning disarray.

Nonetheless, despite reports of some slightly below par tutorial performances, we all seem to have got through the week unscathed.

Central to this challenge is the opportunity to raise money for charities, and between us we have fundraised for various organisations that are equipped to tackle issues affecting those in poverty. Malaria, a disease that we now consider to be easily preventable and treatable, still claims the life of a child every minute in the developing world – and so, I have been raising money for Malaria No More, who are doing a great job of fighting malaria in Africa, where 91% of malaria deaths occur.

The challenge is now over, and it is certainly a relief to have access to a greater range of food again. However, this challenge is certainly one that can change perspectives. Next time I am tempted to overspend on food that I don’t really need, I hope that I’ll stop and think about whether there are others who need my money more – and I’d urge you to do the same.

I might have finished with Live Below the Line for now, but for so many others the challenge is far from over.

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