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Live Below the Line

May 20, 2011

Live Below the Line

This week was the beginning of the Live Below the Line campaign, an event piloted by the Global Poverty Project (GPP) toward two ends: to raise funds to end extreme poverty worldwide, and for individuals to have an experience of what it would be like to eat for five days if you lived in extreme poverty yourself. A few weeks ago, Hugh Jackman, one of GPP’s most ardent supporters, made a video about the campaign, inviting participants to join him and Live Below the Line.

People who live in dire economic circumstances eat on the equivalent of $1.50 per day. The Live Below the Line campaign enrolls people to do just that for five days.

My daughter, Sarah, started working as an intern with GPP this past fall, and was promoted to a fellow in January. She has devoted extensive hours in development, marketing, public speaking training and working with new interns as part of her commitment to this project. So when she told me she needed to go to the grocery store to purchase her week’s worth of food for $7.50, I was not surprised. We discussed what her diet would consist of, and where I was surprised is that she had thought it out quite well.

“Grains and lentils and maybe some vegetables, like broccoli, if I can afford it,” she said to me.

We talked Whole Foods versus Trader Joe’s – because I always have a commitment to organic food and agriculture – as well as the local Jewel and whether or not we knew of a 99¢ store; because pennies were of issue. Amidst this discussion we met a friend who touted a local store named Caputo’s, which has a wide variety of good at reasonable prices, and a reputation for offering slightly aging produce at great prices.

I came home that afternoon to a stovetop filled with a huge pot of pressure-cooked brown rice, a similar sized pot of steamy lentils, and a large bowl of whipped sweet potatoes. Atop the counter was a produce box filled with sweet potatoes of varying levels of size and freshness. There was also a head of iceberg lettuce and one apple. Caputo’s was the savior, where Sarah bought her $7.50 worth of groceries for five days. She said she’d been cooking all day, preparing her diet for the week. Seeing as she had so much food, she invited me to dig in and share dinner with her. I was much less confident than she that she had enough to share, but I told her we could replace whatever I ate. We ate a luscious, if simple meal, and she documented her experience by video to post to facebook. You can see her video here:

Next morning was an experience with the apple and blender, making a sort of apple puree, which she said was quite filling. I told her that I would like to do the week with her, and we decided that we would do it together later this summer.

She showed me a bunch of videos of other people who have been maintaining video blogs about their experience this week living below the line. The project has attracted mostly young adults, people who are committed to taking action to eradicate poverty for the 1.4 billion people who live under this line. This is 25% of the world population. To me this seems impossible to understand, let alone impossible to imagine. Then I learned that fifty years ago, this number was double; we have actually cut the number of the people on the planet living in extreme poverty by half.

But 25% is too much. 15% is too much. 10% is too much. Even 5%. 1% of the planet’s population living in extreme poverty, feeding themselves on $1.50 per day is simply too much, too many hungry, undernourished individuals.

For this reason I have been supporting the work of the Global Poverty Project, and will take five days to Live Below the Line with my daughter. We will post videos together, and I will fill you in on our results. Meanwhile, I invite you to check out the project, and see if there is a step that you see to take toward ending extreme poverty – or another severe crisis – in our lifetime.

Robin Damsky

Our book, Find Fulfill Flourish, was named a Finalist in the Self Help category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times calls it “an inspirational tour de force” Click here to purchase it. Click here for an overview and here for a free sample chapter. Book readers also receive FREE access to all premium exercises and content on our website.

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