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Live Below the Line

Live Below the Line is calling Australians to eat like the 1.4 billion people living in poverty all over the world, Julia McDonald reports.

Beginning on 7 May, Australians are challenged to Live Below the Line (LBL) for five days. This ‘line’ refers to the poverty line. Those who live in extreme poverty feed themselves on $2 per day or less, defined by the World Bank. Creators of this event are encouraging healthy Australians to participate and share their experiences to bring global awareness to the issue of ever growing poverty worldwide.

The initiative began in Melbourne in 2010, and all funds raised are going to the Oaktree life-changing education projects in Papua, New Guinea. This project will help to build a high school in rural areas for youth to attend, as well as fund teachers to work there, providing more jobs for the community.

LBL encourages only healthy people to take part in the challenge, for five days. Others may choose to do a one-day attempt, or simply contribute funds to others who are trying to raise money for the cause. The site also provides dietary information and safety precautions, such as lowering your normal exercise routine, to help pledges. They also suggest working in groups to pool more money, or to spend your $10 at the beginning of the week so that you know exactly how much food you have and can portion control your meals accordingly.

Australia is not the only country participating this year; both the United States, and the United Kingdom are also actively taking part. One of the biggest celebrity participants is Baroness Jenkin of London, England. She will be living below the line and inviting people to dine with her, for 50 pounds per person, in order to raise funds. So, what can a meal based on such a tight budget consist of?

‘I am buying half a kilo of frozen veg to make soup and will add two stock cubes which only cost about a penny each. I may even put half a potato in which should be about 7p. The main course will be a split pea dahl with rice and for pudding we will have banana and custard, assuming I can get some cheap bananas from the market. I have been going over the menu again and again to ensure it comes within the budget.’

Baroness Jenkin is not the only Londoner who will be ‘Living Below the Line’ next week. La Trobe University exchange student, Katrina Thomson, of London, England will also be giving up her luxuries to live on $2 per day. I interviewed her while she was enjoying one of her last coffees before the challenge begins next week.

Why do you think the ‘Live Below the Line’ cause is important? Why did you decide to get involved?

I think it’s really important to raise awareness about the poverty that is going on. Just get involved and give it a go! I think people forget how lucky we are to have so much food at our disposal. You can just go into the cupboard and take whatever you want; you can go to the grocery store and spend hundreds of pounds or dollars. Not everyone can do that though. It’s really important to see how hard it really is, even if only for five days, because there are people doing it for their lifetime.

What are the challenges you think you’ll have eating on only $2 each day?

It’s going to be really hard! There’s going to be a lot of cutbacks, but I think just going back to the basics of having fruit and vegetables and staying away from branded stuff, as well.

I have cheerleading practise so I don’t know how I’m going to work with that. I’m hoping I don’t pass out!

Also, because I work at Charlie’s [a campus café], it’s going to be really hard to turn down coffee and a kebab after my shift.

What food or drink are you going to miss the most next week?

Everything! Being English I’m really going to miss just having a cup of tea. That’s a thing that’s pretty expensive. I’m going to miss meat too; you can’t really afford it on $2.

What is your strategy to make your $2 stretch as far as possible?

I’ve tried to convince a few of my friends to do it together, but everyone is pretty skeptical about it. As soon as I say you only live off $2 and you can’t use anything you’ve already got people say ‘that’s impossible! I can’t do that!’ I’m still trying to persuade some friends because it will be easier to do it as a group but, otherwise, it’s going to be hard. I’ll have to make a bag of pasta last the whole week!

Katrina Thomson seems positive now, but I’ll be catching up with her later next week to see how she did on the project. To get involved, participants can sign up online to receive donations, or download the form for cash contributions.  You can also follow Australian teams on Twitter @belowthelineNSW or @LBL_SA.

Julia McDonald is completing her Masters of Global Communications at La Trobe University. Follow her on Twitter @Jules_mcdonald.

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