"Live Below the Line is challenging individuals and communities to see how much change you can make out of £1. By living off just £1 per day for food for 5 days, you will be bringing to life the direct experiences of the 1.4 billion people currently living in extreme poverty and helping to make real change.
Think about that figure - 1.4 BILLION - that's over 20 times the population of the UK - living every day in extreme poverty."
I had never heard of this campaign until my yoga teacher mentioned it a few weeks ago. For five days, from Monday 29th April to Friday 3rd May, she is intending to eat for no more than £1 a day. Now my yoga teacher is a great advert for yoga. She looks at least fifteen years younger than she is and has an extraordinary energy and flexibility, of both body and mind. When I started to practise yoga three or four years ago I was definitely keen to "have what she was having". So I do tend to be interested in what she is doing and why.
I came home intrigued. I looked at the website. I spent an hour or so working out how I could possibly do it, pricing up porridge oats and lentils. I talked to Ian about it. He was perfectly happy for me to do whatever I wanted but it was pretty clear that if I was to do it too I would be doing it by myself.
I don't know quite why it struck such a chord. I would be lying if I were to tell you that the driving force of my interest is concern for world poverty. I do care, of course I do, but the way we cope with the terrifying spectre of poverty if we live in the developed world is not to think about it, to feel helpless if we do and to turn back to our own world where the problems with food are problems of obesity and excess. We all stick our heads in the sand and I am no different.
So it is partly a response to that terrifying statistic about those who live in poverty, but it is also and much less nobly simple curiosity - can I do it? It is a practical challenge - what are the logistics of feeding yourself on so little? How would I do it? How would it work? It is a physical challenge - what happens if I constrain what I eat so seriously? Would I lose weight? Would I feel better or worse? And coming back round to this again and again, can I do it? So there is a lot of "I" in there as you can see. But we arrived at today and after Friday morning yoga class I seem to have decided to have a go. Whether I succeed or not I shall make the same donation to Unicef and I shan't ask for any sponsorship. It feels like a personal decision and a personal challenge.
After yoga this morning I went shopping.
So here it all is - everything I shall eat for a week.
Breakfasts: porridge made with water (oats 40p) and served with natural yoghurt.
What do I usually have? Home made bread and a poached or boiled egg from our own hens, accompanied by two cups of weak tea. I shall miss my breakfasts quite a bit I think but I do like porridge. In an ideal world it comes with cream and honey but I couldn't run to either of those. I am most worried about doing without my cups of tea. I can drink as much water as I like and shall probably drink hot water with breakfast rather than cold but I am not sure I can really get going without my cup of tea. We shall see.
Lunches: a bag of lentils and some of the vegetables to be made into a lentil based soup. Lentils are my protein for the week and I have decided that I am allowed herbs from my garden and spices from my shelves since I have 38 pence remaining unspent and the quantities will be minimal. Will a couple of bowls of soup be enough? I usually have sandwiches or soup for lunch but I will miss the slabs of bread and butter I normally have. After lunch I almost always have some fruit but there is no way my budget could stretch to fruit of any kind. I wonder how I will manage without bread and fruit and whether I will cope with the fact that both bread and fruit will be in the house and that Ian and his father will be eating them, probably right in front of me! I am not good at depriving myself. Oh dear. Still, looking on the bright side I do like home made soup and I am pretty sure I can produce something which will be actively enjoyable. It just needs a banana or some chocolate to follow it up with. Nope, not enough money.
Evening meals with be rice with some sort of curried vegetables. This is probably where the greatest difference will be. No meat, no fish, no potatoes. Since Ian's father came to live with us we have tended to have a very traditional evening meal of meat and two veg. I like rice and I like curry but I will need to work out how to ring the changes a bit or I will go nuts with the same meal every night.
So how does that differ from my normal pattern of eating? Well I often snack at about 4.30, frequently on fruit or, if I have been working outside, on bread and cheese. I wonder if I will be hungry? I am not very good at being hungry. I have never coped well with dieting. I suppose if I get desperate I can slip in an extra bowl of porridge! And later in the evening I often have a glass or two of wine and some cheese and biscuits. In desperation I bought some celery (50p) in an attempt to have something which could be my evening snack. If I am honest this time of the day is what I am most apprehensive about. It is my comfort blanket, my evening ritual of wine and biscuits. Perhaps I should save myself some more soup.
I am really not at all sure I can do this. How pathetic that sounds when the world is full of people who have no choice. So here is to a weekend of eating what I like, followed by next week of eating with my choices so reduced it will feel like another world.
Would you do it?