Having just got to the end of five days of living on £1 or less a day, I celebrated with two hard-boiled eggs, toast and marmite and some freshly-ground coffee. It tasted wonderful and was greatly appreciated.
But this exercise has been an incredibly sobering experience for me. I have spent many years working in the developing world amongst communities where food is scarce and have seen for myself how heartbreaking it is for mothers to see their small children waiting patiently in line for a nutritionally inadequate main meal – usually their only meal of the day. Too often this consisted of a thin soup with some maize or cassava to bulk it up. Food – good quality, nutritionally balanced food – is essential not just for life, but to help children grow and develop healthily. And yet there are millions of children for whom there is no guarantee of a regular, plentiful source of nourishment.
You may well be asking what effect five days of a relatively meagre diet will have on a very well-fed adult and how on earth this might have a meaningful impact on starving children all over the world.
Well, I now have a fraction more personal understanding of what it feels like to be too hungry to sleep. And due to the generosity of friends and sponsors, a number of peers who have taken part in this event have raised a significant amount of money for various charities working at grassroots level, who really make a difference in providing assistance to some of the world’s most disadvantaged people. Our minor and short-lived hardship should have a profound impact on people living on very low incomes right across the globe.
The last five days have also made me realise – with a shock – how much food we actually consume, way over and above the amount we need to survive and be healthy.
Living Below the Line is still a new campaign in the UK and I hope that next year, even more people will take up the challenge and join in. The lasting effect could be that we all learn to eat less and be more pro-active in insisting on a more equitable distribution of food around the world.