Global scheme aims to attract 20,000 fund raisers and promote awareness of the 1.4 billion people globally who have less than a £1 a day on which to live
Isaac and Samuel Jadav plan to miss out on fish and chips on Friday lunchtime, Rachel Husband hasn’t had a cup of tea all week, and 84-year-old Alice Rutter “rebelled” on Tuesday and ate four grapes. All four are taking part in Live Below the Line, a five-day challenge to see what it’s like to have just £1 a day to spend on food and drink.
This is the second year the scheme has run globally after growing out of an experiment by two charity workers, and its founders the Global Poverty Project hope more than 20,000 people will take part in the UK, Australia and the US. It says it has so far raised more than $2m (£1.2m) from sponsorship for a range of charities including Christian Aid and Unicef. But the aim is more to raise awareness of the 1.4 billion people around the world who have less than a £1 a day on which to live.
Those taking part acknowledge they cannot come close to experiencing what it is like to live in that kind of poverty, and there’s a difference between living on £1 a day and having just £1 to spend on food and drink. But Elisha London, UK country director for the Global Poverty Project, believes the challenge does get people to look again at the plight of others around the world. “The purpose isn’t to simulate extreme poverty – it physically wouldn’t be possible unless people went homeless. But people do start thinking, ‘Imagine if your travel and electricity and water had to come out of this money too’,” she says.
Isaac and Samuel’s mother Chris says seeing a colleague in Haiti take up the challenge has inspired her family this week. They are attempting five days on a food budget of £25 for five people – about £70 less than they usually spend (the difference will go to charity). Chris, who works in Cornwall for Christian Aid, admits there are “probably economies of scale” to be had through feeding a large family rather than trying to buy food as an individual. She says she gave her 11- and seven-year-old children, and two-year-old Lucy, the option to take part or not, but the older ones were enthusiastic participants.
“They’ve been the ones saying, ‘If we were being authentic we wouldn’t have the house, we wouldn’t have fresh water’.” She says there was a little bit of disappointment when they realised they would miss their favourite school dinners of roast dinners and fish and chips, but decided to keep going. “It will be interesting to see how much their awareness is raised by this, but it has made a difference – something like an egg becomes more valuable, rather than just an egg, and meals are enjoyed more because they are hungrier.”
Rutter, a methodist local preacher, is taking the challenge to raise money for people overseas, but she says it has made her reflect on people closer to home. “It has made me more thoughtful about the plight of people – I am raising money for people in abject poverty but it has made me think about people in Europe as well.”
Rutter says planning has been key to creating a reasonable diet on less than £1 a day: “I managed to get special offers and deals in advance – very poor people might not have the opportunity or time to do that.” She says she wasn’t surprised to find she couldn’t afford meat or fish, but the high price of fruit and vegetables has alarmed her. “The other day I was fed up with eating stodge so I rebelled and I bought 12 grapes – they were half price but they still cost me 18p. I’ve been having just two at a time, so I’ve still got a few left.”
Husband has not been so organised, and is getting by on Supernoodles and budget-brand cornflakes. She was inspired to take part after moving to London and feeling like everything was incredibly expensive: “I saw an article on Live Below the Line in Metro and realised I didn’t have it that bad.” She says the experience opened her eyes to how much money she’s been frittering away, and will make her change her habits in the future.
You too can sign up for the challenge throughout May.
Elisha London’s pea risotto recipe – feeds two for 56p
1/2 an onion (8p)
2 stock cubes (8p)
200g rice (20p)
100g peas (20p)
1 Brown slices of onion in a pan (if you can afford oil, great, if not just be careful not to burn onions).
2 Add rice to the pan, and warm until it starts to go clear.
3 Gradually add 700ml of vegetable stock to the rice, 100ml at a time until it is absorbed.
4 At the end add in peas until they are cooked.