What I Learned Living on $1.50 a Day During The Live Below the Line Challenge

Photo: (Claire Biggs)

Photo: One of my breakfasts. (Claire Biggs)

My home state of Louisiana offers some of the best food in the world. You’ve got crawfish boils, beignets at Café du Monde, and gumbo when the weather gets cold. This week, however, I traded in my normal grocery store shopping list for a much simpler one with a budget of $1.50 a day.

I know — it sounds impossible, right? But this week I, along with Ben Affleck, Sophia Bush, Tom Hiddleston and thousands of other people across the world, pledged to take the Global Poverty Project’s Live Below the Line challenge. That meant living on $1.50 a day, just like 1.4 billion people around the world do every day.

I had heard of the challenge before, but this was the first year I participated. I was curious to see if I could manage — I’m not going to lie, I usually spend most of my “extra” money on eating out! — and I wanted to raise a little money for the Somaly Mam Foundation. I’m a huge fan of Somaly and her work to help human trafficking survivors, so if it meant giving up a few meals out to do so, why not?

So on Sunday, I went shopping. Some people go the rice and beans route on the challenge, but I’m such a big fan of pasta. I searched until I found a super-cheap kind that would keep me under my budget. It’s amazing how much you have to change your day when you only have a certain amount of money to spend on food and drinks. I had to plan what I would eat at specific times so I wouldn’t lose energy during the day — which also meant changing up my workout schedule. When your budget is that limited, you really need to choose protein-rich foods that will keep your energy up throughout the day.

The hardest part of the challenge, for me, was trying to explain to people why I couldn’t accept food from anyone or why I couldn’t just let someone donate money to my food budget. (Hello, that’s not the point of the challenge!) Once they realized that I was serious, they then turned to the most popular question of the week: “But what good does that do?”

I hear you, people, I do. I understand that my having the privilege to choose to eat on $1.50 a day doesn’t change the reality of the 1.4 billion people around the world who have no choice but to live on that meager amount. But at the same time, after taking the challenge, I have a perspective on their situation that I didn’t have before. If this challenge afforded me the ability to empathize a little more with those people around the world, then I’ve become a better global citizen because of it. If the first step to helping end extreme poverty is having a somewhat better understanding of it, then we’re already on our way.

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Somaly Mam

Somaly Mam

Visit the Somaly Mam website and learn more about how you can fight human trafficking!