Guest blog by Hannah Brearley, Research and Events Administrator at 2020health
At the beginning of this month, in order to raise awareness about the 1.4 billion people currently living in extreme poverty, I took part in an initiative called ‘Live Below the Line’: in which participants have only one pound per day to buy their food. Extreme poverty is defined by the World Bank as living off less than £1 per day. The aim is to gain a better understanding of those who live off one pound a day for all their needs: their home, clothing, etc, not just their food.
I am not a naturally a ‘diety’ person: I have four brothers, so in my house, if you don’t eat what’s on your plate—and eat it fast!—you don’t eat. However, having only graduated a year ago, I naively assumed that living off a pound a day couldn’t be that different to student living, and therefore I’d be able to grin and bear it.
The biggest challenge was not necessarily the amount of food, but the lack of nutritional value in pretty much every meal. Breakfast every day was super cheap white toast and two eggs, which was the best meal of the day. Lunch and dinner were interchangable between rice with value korma sauce or spaghetti with passata. In a bid to add some vitamins or something to meals, frozen vegetables and kidney beans were frugally sprinkled in.
Tiredness, rather than hunger, was the overwhelming emotion I remember. I was starved of the ability to function, full of cheap, starchy carbs but devoid of the essential nutrients to fuel my brain. But people live on this. On less than this. Every day. People who live and work day in, day out, on a diet which in no way provides them with what they need to succeed. Enough to survive, but not more. I struggled to focus on my work, but I am so fortunate that I was working in a warm office, sat down at my desk. Not everyone is so lucky.
And what is really important is that this is not just taking place in developing countries around the world—which is horrific enough. This is something you can see every day in this country.
I know that what I am saying in nothing new, or shocking. We all know that this happens, and some people do big things to make a change, and some people do little things, and some people do nothing at all. But more than ever in times of recession, when we know that food banks are overwhelmed with people clamouring for food, when it is lauded that £15 per week is enough to get all the food you need, that we need to remember how important it is that people are nourished. That children come to school with full bellies which will power their learning and keep them focussed on their education—and not their next meal. That people are not just eating, but eating well.
The week taught me that 1 in 8 people in the world do not have enough food. That 1.4 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty. And that we can all do a little something to help.