Live Below the Line: Can’t I Just Buy Your Lunch?

In exactly one week I will be living on £1 per day for food and drink for 5 days. In the lead-up to that I will be doing some meticulous meal planning and will make a few research trips to the grocery store to see exactly how far my money will stretch and what I can purchase beforehand to ensure that I eat as well as I can for those 5 days. Poverty is time consuming. I certainly will not be able to grab lunch on the fly next week. I will need to plan ahead, know my schedule, and say no to things that will prohibit me from eating my pre-planned meal.

Fortunately, my husband will also be taking the challenge with me, which means that our purchasing power will double as we combine our resources, so we’ll be able to make our money stretch a bit further. For example, a small bag of rice costs the same whether I eat the whole bag over the course of 5 days or not so if two of us can share the bag of rice, ensuring that it all gets used up, but still spend the same amount of money there will be more money for us to spend on other things. This is a tangible example of what life is like for the world’s poorest. You may have £1 to spend on food that day, but if the smallest portion of food you can buy costs £1.19, then it is simply out of reach and you must go hungry.

As I chat about this challenge with people there is one question that almost always comes up. “Can’t I just by your lunch or dinner for you so that you don’t have to worry about spending the money and thus successfully complete the challenge?” This question reveals the generosity of my friends and family and their desire to alleviate any inconvenience I may experience during the challenge. It also emphasizes the power of community and how quickly and easily those with money can step in and help those without. Which leads me to wonder, who is buying lunch for the world’s poorest?

With that question I do not mean to advocate simply paying for people’s needs as a method of alleviating poverty. If one friend buys me lunch next Monday (which of course I will not allow) another friend will have to buy me lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. If living on £1 per day were my permanent reality then, in this model, someone would need to buy me lunch everyday and I may never break free from the cycle of poverty. However, if my friend were to use that money to invest in my education or an irrigation system for my farmland, then I’d be more likely be able to provide my own lunch eventually and maybe even invite my friend over for lunch.

For me, the question “who is buying lunch for the world’s poorest?” is more about community and support. If so many of my friends and family are willing to step up and support me to ensure that I don’t need to go hungry or deprive myself in any way, who is stepping up to ensure the same for the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty? Where is their community of friends to whom they can reach out for support? I think there is a rather large and capable community who has the means to assist those who live below the poverty line to lift themselves out of poverty in a more practical way than simply ‘buying them lunch’ day after day and year after year. Those of us in the developed world have the means to come alongside our friends in the developing world and support them through the challenges of extreme poverty. Which is why I am choosing to Live Below the Line. Not only will the challenge give me insight into the lives of those who live in extreme poverty, it also gives me the opportunity to be part of that community who comes alongside the world’s poorest people to offer my support. As part of the challenge I will be raising funds for the Global Poverty Project as they continue to work diligently to see extreme poverty eradicated in a generation. Rather than buying me lunch or dinner, why not use that £5 or £10 to help me raise funds as I Live Below the Line. To lend your support or to learn more please visit my participant page.