Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Global Citizenry: Live Below the Line | Living on $1.75 a day for 5 days to change the way we think about extreme poverty

While virtually exploring various countries over the years with the girls, the rich cultural diversity never ceases to amaze me, yet at the same time, the overwhelming prevalence of poverty is sobering. 

When I heard about Live Below the Line, an awareness and fundraising campaign run by the Global Poverty Project, I was excited to join in. Here was a concrete way, if only in a small way, for our family to get involved. 

The challenge to Live Below the Line is a worldwide fundraising initiative and I have joined thousands of others to raise awareness and funds to help eradicate extreme poverty.

1.2 Billion people around the world live in extreme poverty, which means their income has the purchasing power equivalent to us living on $1.75 (Canadian;  $1.25 US or £1 UK) a day. 

$8.75 worth of food to feed me throughout the week: various spices (cumin, chili, cayenne, salt, pepper, cinnamon and turmeric), one can of diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 4 carrots, 2 zucchini, 1 onion, brown rice, green lentils, black eyed peas, pinto beans, oatmeal and brown sugar (I just couldn't do oatmeal without a sweetener)

The challenge to Live Below the Line is to spend 5 consecutive days eating and drinking for under $1.75 each day. (Though promoted for participation from April 28 to May 2, the challenge and fundraising are open until June 30). Along with my sister, I started yesterday and for the next four days all ingredients for all meals must amount to less than $1.75 each day. Although the rest of the family aren't taking on the challenge, they have been part of the process, helping me shop, portion out and prepare, seeing how far (when it comes to beans), and how little (when it comes to produce and variety) that money can go. 

In India, 21% live in extreme poverty. We made green lentil daal to eat with rice.
Photo Credit: Juan Luis Sanchez

So how did we spend that money? I could have bought a large bag of cheap noodles and a few cans of spaghetti sauce and called it a week. And, to be honest, it's possible I would have relished it. But that would have been too easy, and include too little nutritional value. I don't believe it would have inspired any real conversation about the reality of extreme poverty around the globe. 

Over 40 million Brazilians live on less than $2 a day, and approximately 20 million make less than $1 a day. We made Brazilian rice and Brazilian style pinto beans.
Photo Credit: Danielle Pereira
Therefore my inspiration came from around the globe. Beans and rice are a common staple meal around the world, as a cheap and available source of many nutrients. We looked at countries with high rates of extreme poverty and found recipes of beans and rice commonly eaten there. By bringing our attention to specific countries (some of which we had studied in the past), it created a connection for the girls. Rather than an overwhelmingly large number they can't relate to (1.2 billion), we are talking about those families, those children, who hunger for similar food.

1 in 6 of the world's poor live in China, where 13% live in extreme poverty. To add variety to oatmeal breakfasts, I'll also be eating congee.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Tong

Of course, those living in these conditions must account for all living expenses, not simply food. Seeing what little is accumulated in food, it's difficult to wrap our heads around how anyone can feasibly do so. By choosing to do this challenge, I believe it will help us to better understand the lack of choice and opportunities many, much too many, people face. 

Sub Saharan Africa is especially affected, with a 54% rate of extreme poverty. In Liberia, 90% of people live in extreme poverty. We will be making black eyed pea fritters and Liberian black eyed pea soup.
Photo Source: Gates Foundation

Join Us!

I hope you can join the conversation about what poverty looks like globally. You can follow me and my progress over the week on Facebook and how my sister and I are doing on our team page at Live Below The Line. If you'd like to sponsor us, all donations will be going to World Literacy Canada - literacy being an important means of creating equality and a means out of poverty. 


  1. Wow! What an inspiring idea. I might need to think through how and when we might try this. We obviously missed the timing for the April 28 time, but maybe we can do it another time. Do you know if this is a yearly thing?

    1. It is a yearly campaign, and though it's been publicized for the week of April 28th, the fundraising is until June 30th, and you can join at any time :) It's been very interesting, and definitely worthwhile.

  2. Good for you, Marie! I've been following this through your facebook and I think you're doing a stirling job. I'd struggle with £1 per meal let alone £1 per day!

    1. Thanks Claire! I bet if you portioned out the cost of your meals, you'd be surprised - especially since you grind your own flour!!! That still leaves me flabbergasted :)


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