Rice, rice and more rice. That’s what’s on the menu for Live Below the Line participants, all of whom are living on $1.75 a day for five days.
From April 29 to May 2, 25 Ottawa volunteers took part in a challenge to compare their lives to the 1.4 billion people across the world living in extreme poverty.
Those people don’t just need to pay for their food, but housing, transportation, clothing and everything else with $1.75 or less each day.
“Hungry,” is the only word Meaghan Derynck needed to describe the challenge. She said the hardest part of the project has been giving up coffee and all snacks – which she forgot to budget for when spending her $8.75 for the week.
The project raises money for Cuso International, Results Canada, Raising the Village and Spread the Net. The 25 Ottawa participants join about 100 others across Canada who are collecting pledges as they complete the challenge.
Ariane Cartwright, a Results Canada employee, said a typical day for her meal plan included oatmeal with a third of a shredded apple for breakfast, plain rice with chick peas and split peas for lunch, and frozen mixed vegetables with potato for lunch.
“We reached our (fundraising) goal of $25,000, but yeah – we’re hungry,” Cartwright said. “Not belly-aching hungry, but hungry. You don’t have the steam to really make it to 5:30 at work.”
She estimated with food, drink and meals out, the average Canadian spends about $75 to $100 a week.
The participating Results Canada employees teamed up to shop at a bargain grocery store, splitting up $35 of food between six of them. The shopping list included economy sized frozen vegetables, rice, and oatmeal.
Orléans resident Kate Alexander said it’s been a struggle preparing food for her children and then eating her own smaller portion. She said her serving is comparable to many developing areas where the wealthy may have an excess of food, but their poor neighbours much less.
“There’s enough food to go around, but not everyone gets it,” she said. On May 1, participants and guests were invited to a lunch at The Hub in downtown Ottawa where Lunch restaurant owner Tim Van Dyke came prepared with 55-cent meals.
Van Dyke said staff had to shop around at bargain grocery stores and Chinatown shops in order to make a day’s worth of meals come in at less than $1.75.
For lunch, they prepared meat dumplings, made with eight wonton wrappers (eight cents), a third of an Italian sausage (28 cents) and half a tomato (19 cents).
Participants intensely debated the meat or vegetable wontons because of the vegetable and cheese in the latter, there were seven wontons instead of eight; a big difference for the hungry bellies.
With the $25,000 fundraising goal already reached, the Canadian participants said they would push to raise even more money before they complete the challenge.