Why did you Live Below the Line?

This week many of you reading this will have participated in Live Below the Line or know of someone who has. The challenge is to live on £1 per day for all food and drink. Some are living on nasty value sausages, cheap bread and forgoing tea and milk. Others, who are more used to eating well on a budget, have had a much more healthy and varied diet. Many are tweeting and blogging about it. Some are good, such as A Year Without Supermarkets and some are dire. I won’t name and shame them.

I am not participating. Not because I don’t care about those that have no choice to live on less than a quid a day, it is because I think the message about food poverty is being lost. There are millions in the world who live below the line every day including people in developed countries such as the USA and the UK. Thousands in the UK are now relying on food banks. Read how this happens to educated, hardworking people here.

I am already bored with reading tweets about how LBLers miss caffeine, withdrawal is kicking in or that going without butter is such a hardship. They chose to do this, for five days. Others have no choice and live like this for five weeks of five months. Most LBLers still have a roof over their head and can afford a smart phone that enables them to tweet every sip of water. What is more they are digitally engaged enough to know how to. People in poverty are often not digital natives. Yet when universal credit rolls out, applications have to be made on line. No job, no PC, where do you go to register then? Library, ah, the one that has been closed or has reduced hours because of budget cuts. Who is going to help you to register and claim?  Library staff? Those too have been reduced? Are you sure you want a complete stranger to see your personal financial information?

Great, raise money by living below the line. But get angry too.

Get angry about food poverty. When supermarkets throw food away and carrots are rejected for not being perfectly straight.

Get angry that over 400 people died in a fire in Bangladesh. A factory that makes cheap clothing so the all consuming First Worlders can have new top to go out in on Friday night. The people who died would be living below the line despite having jobs. They will have children who are now possibly orphans and homeless and hungry. That t shirt for a fiver costs more than those that died making it had to feed themselves on. How does that make you feel?

Get angry.

Live Below the Line

This week is the start of Live Below the Line week. People all over the world will be feeding themselves on the equivalent of what many families in extreme poverty have to live on every day.

For the people participating and raising money for charity, living on £1 a day is a choice they are making. and I wish them well and hope a lot of money is raised.

I hope they do not forget that for many it is not a choice but a reality. And while scouring the supermarket for the cheapest sausages they remember that they have the choice of pasta or rice and beans or spaghetti while for others there is no choice. It is rice, or rice. They don’t have the opportunity to see if pasta is cheaper in Tesco or Asda. And have never seen a tea bag.

So I am not participating, fully. I am going to track what I spend and am going to feed three adults on as little as possible. I am going back to an old favourite cook book published in 1987 called How to Feed Your Family For £5 a Day, by Bernadine Lawrence. Not for her plastic bargain bread at 47p or cheap frozen veg and a jar of pasta sauce. She advocates baking your own bread and cooking fresh, seasonable ingredients, providing healthy home cooked food.£5 book

My view is that at a time where more food banks are springing up to help more and more people who are having to choose to eat or heat, or believe that fast food is cheaper than shopping and cooking, the real issue in the UK is that so many people do not know how to cook. And I worry that this campaign is encouraging unhealthy eating by providing menus based around cheap sausages and plastic bread.

So I’m costing up my meals, cooking from scratch, using left overs, but I’m not taking part in the campaign.