Live Below the Line Challenge

May 3, 2013 in Best of Both, Charity, Girl Scouts, paying it forward by MyBestofBothWorlds

Live Below the Line Challenge is a guest post.  My friend and Girl Scout co-leader Jeannine Maloney recounts her week of living below the line.  When I saw her post this about this on her Facebook status, I thought to myself, Wow she talks the talk and walks the walk.  And to that end, I’ve made a $100 contribution to her UNICEF Live Below the Line link which can be found below.  Thank you Jeannine for doing this to bring attention to a situation that needs it and for always setting such a great example for our Girl Scouts!!

Keep on reading to find out her experiences and the insights she gained during this challenge.

Oh what a difference a week makes by  Jeannine Maloney.

Jeannine Maloney Lived below the line for 5 days

A while back I heard about a challenge called Live Below the Line. The idea is to live on $1.50 per day for food, for five days, to gain a better understanding on what it means to live in extreme poverty. Currently 1.4 billion people world wide live in extreme poverty; less that $1.50 per day for ALL their living expenses. In our own country, well over a million people, mostly children, live on less than $2.00 per day for food for a minimum of one month. I’m a pretty thrifty shopper and I’ve lived on a really tight budget for a good part of my life, so I figured I could do this. Through Girl Scouts I’ve run my fair share of food drives and though I have always known there are hungry people everywhere, I never knew what it was like to be truly hungry.

The first thing I had to figure out was how to get proper nutrition on $1.50 per day. I quickly gave up on my local super market. The prices on everything except white rice and dried pinto beans were just too high. I hit Trader Joe’s and Cross Island Fruits for apples, broccoli, potatoes, bananas and oatmeal. Arnold’s Thrift Bakery store for wheat bread and The Dollar Tree for eggs and peanut butter and raisins. I have to admit that the idea of shopping for food at the dollar store kind of worried me, but once I got there and saw lots of other people doing the same I figured I probably wouldn’t die. My total selection of food consisted of 7 slices of bread, half a pound of rice, 5 bananas, 4 apples, 8 eggs, 8 potatoes, half a pound of beans, 1 pound of frozen broccoli, half a box of raisins, a cup of oatmeal and  5 ounces of peanut butter. After extensive menu planning, which was so stressful it gave me heart palpitations, I thought I was ready. I was wrong.

Jeannine’s Facebook status: This is the food for the next five days. I shopped at Cross Island Fruits, Foodtown, Trader Joe’s, Arnold’s Bakery Thrift Store and The Dollar Tree.  Sadly most of the people shopping for food at The Dollar Tree were senior citizens.

From the start I was hungry, but I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how tired and fuzzy headed I would feel for the rest of the week. I calculated the calories and realized I was eating less than 800 calories per day which is well below what is considered safe. By the second day, I was so light headed I had my husband bring me a yogurt at work. The difference of just 120 calories was amazing. So in an effort to try and keep it real, I collected up 60 bottles and cans to recycle and used the three dollars to buy three more yogurts. By day three, no matter what I did, I couldn’t stay warm. I found that my thought were constantly on food. And money. And where I could get more of each. By sheer luck, that week I found a total of $2.19 between the parking lot at work and my washing machine. I bought four cups of milk, paid for the first yogurt and had 19 cents left over. By day five, even with the added food I was wrung out. That night as I sat down to eat my last Below the Line dinner, I cried with relief that I could go back to my regular life in the morning.

Jeannine’s status: Meal plans. Some days I was pennies over the $1.50, some days under, so it all balanced out.

I wondered about a lot of things those five days a lot those five days. I wondered how people who had to be on their feet all day coped with the lack of food. I wondered, as all the school kids took Stated Mandated tests, how they even thought clearly when their stomachs where constantly on empty. I wondered why people get worked up about so many causes, but hunger falls through the cracks. I wondered if we tell ourselves “I would never get to that point of poverty” because it’s just too scary to imagine that we too could be there very quickly. Or maybe it’s just so easy to be judgmental with a full stomach. But what I wondered about the very most was this; I wondered how is it that we have managed to eradicate diseases, put people into space, save animals from extinction and yet, we still can not end hunger.

So what can you do?  In one word: Donate.
Donate to UNICEF via my Live Below the Line link:
Donate food or money to food banks. Donate your time to a soup kitchen. Donate during the summer when children who are fed by their school will be going hungry due to the break. And keep donating. Many food banks are stretched thin due to the economy. Organize a food drive or brown bag it and give the money you would spend eating out to a food bank. If you can get your co-workers involved that’s even better! Be creative and remember that every little bit, even one can helps, so just give.

Live Below the Line takes place worldwide April 29th through May 3rd. If you decide to take this challenge you can find more information here