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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

LBL: What I Learnt

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

$2 a day for 5 days.

I made it.

When I first heard about the Live Below the Line challenge in 2011, I was intrigued. When someone asked me to participate, I laughed. I never imagined I would have the self-discipline to live on less than $2 a day for five days.

This year, however, I proved myself wrong. Not only that, but I proved a lot of things to myself and learnt a whole lot more than I thought I would.

#1. I eat way more than I really need to.

I was sitting at my computer and stood up, walked to the pantry and went to get food. I stopped and realised what I was doing in time. Was I hungry? No. Was I actually thinking about what I was doing? No. It was just something I did. Throughout the day, was I sitting there wishing I had more to eat, feeling hunger pains? No, I had enough to eat that I wasn’t actually feeling as hungry as I expected. I just eat way more than I really need to. Since coming off the challenge, this is something I want to be more aware of.

#2. There is a social impact to living without food.

“Hey, Cat! Let’s do dinner this week.” That couldn’t happen. We frequently centre social occasions around food or drink: breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, coffee, afternoon tea, morning tea… the list goes on. I had social activities I had to forgo during the challenge as spending a dinner with someone who can’t eat is incredibly uncomfortable for the person who isn’t on the Live Below the Line challenge. For those living in poverty, social invitations are difficult to accept as they usually involve spending money.

#3. The poverty cycle is real.

Business meetings also frequently happen over “a coffee”. While I am not a coffee drinker, I quite enjoy a hot tea on a cold day. However, tea at a café can cost up to $4.50 in Australia – just for a tea bag in a pot of boiling water! While I used my business meetings to talk about the challenge I was doing and why I couldn’t eat or drink, those living in poverty have a different experience. For people trying to get out of the poverty cycle, the first step is quite frequently a job. In order to get a job, more often than not, people need to have an interview or a meeting of some kind. Preparing for these costs money. Fuelling the body with the right nutrients in order to perform at maximum capacity costs money.

#4. Malnourishment and poverty go hand-in-hand.

While I was feeling a lot fuller than I expected during the challenge, I was not eating a balanced meal. A few slices of cucumber were all I had to show for my consumption of vegetables over the five days. A handful of assorted fruit cost 10c and was far from filling. My diet consisted mainly of carbs, which my digestive system did not appreciate. Going to the toilet was another issue from the lack of fibre. Five days on, my stomach has still not settled from the imbalance of carbs, fibre, vitamins and proteins.

#5. The calculations are draining.

Sometimes it was easier to forgo food than to work out if I had enough money to have a snack. It was easier for me to be away from the home office and away from temptation. That way, I wouldn’t be worried about snacking or calculating the cost of snacking.

#6. By hand is by far best!

Buying a gourmet loaf of bread at the supermarket can cost up to $9! As the daughter of a gourmet baker, I couldn’t imagine going the entire challenge without bread. Luckily, making bread at home only costs $0.60 for a loaf. Dad and I teamed up to make bread throughout the challenge. Also, growing your own fruit and veg is incredibly inexpensive. We used the challenge as an opportunity to calculate the difference between the cost of seeds in my parents’ veggie garden to what you would pay for different vegetables at the store. My parents’ garden is fed from the discarded skin and seeds of other fruit and veggies my parents eat at home; therefore, they spend nothing on mulch!

Would I do it again next year?

Without a doubt! It was a great challenge, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to open my eyes to a small glimpse of how other people live in the world. Of course, the challenge does not include costs for bedding, clothing, shelter, electricity, water, transport, medical needs, etc.. However, a small look into someone else’s life can help others learn wonders about the rest of the world.

It’s still not too late to donate to the Global Goals Australia team! Visit us NOW to support people living in poverty in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste (East Timor).

This article was originally published on the Global Goals Australia Campaign website.


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