Living below the (poverty) line - not easy

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Living below the (poverty) line – not easy

by Josh Barrie


Lottie Stoddart is an illustrator and she drew the meals she ate in her week “living below the line”. (© Lottie Stoddart )

Friday was my last day of ‘living below the line’. This is a challenge to live for five days on only £1 ($1.70) a day. It’s to make people think about the 1.2 billion people around the world who live in terrible poverty. I started the challenge on Monday, and on Friday, I was very happy that I would be able to stop eating too much rice and pasta with a few frozen vegetables and tasteless, cheap white fish (this is unethical - I’m sorry, I couldn’t be so sustainable when I was hungry).

But nearly a million people in Britain eat like this all the time. And many more than this across the world would love to eat all that.

It was very difficult to walk around supermarkets with £5 to spend for 5 days of food. It tested my cooking skills and my character.

I like shopping – I go shopping nearly every day, to buy a few things. I like seeing asparagus arriving in the shops; choosing some nice plums, then going to find some oats to make a lovely crumble (a pudding).

You cannot buy much for £5. You could buy some oats, but no plums. Most fresh vegetables would cost too much.

This is what I bought: 6 cheap pieces of fish, £1.62; 1 kilogram frozen vegetables, 75p; cheap white rice, 40p; 6 eggs, £1.00; 500g cheap pasta, 29p; 3 tins of cheap kidney beans, 69p; and 2 old apples, 24p.

The total was £4.99 – and I was not happy that it all looked plastic and white.

More people here have to buy cheap food every day. But this much money for many people in sub-Saharan Africa would be wonderful.

We cannot begin to understand this every day hunger and suffering. Not by forcing ourselves to buy 23p cans of kidney beans. But Live Below the Line : ( at least helps people to think about poverty. And it gives richer people a very small experience of the difficulties. And it raises a lot of very important money.

This week I’ve felt depressed, tired and hungry. I really wanted a glass of wine, fresh fruit, and a few nuts. Something with a good taste.

Lottie Stoddart, who drew beautiful pictures of her week, felt the same. She told me: ‘It was not just a hungry week, but also a week with no choice or flavour. I didn’t understand before how this would affect my feelings. I felt worse and worse through the week, and this made my energy and my drawing worse.

‘The challenge helped me to understand a little about living below the poverty line.’

But at 12am on Saturday morning, I was drinking cocktails eating a kebab. Since then, I’ve started buying sustainable fish again and have eaten a lot of nuts. I’m very happy that I have a choice. Millions of people don’t have a choice.


A lot of people made their food tasty and beautiful. But I didn’t want to.

I had rice for breakfast, pasta and kidney beans for lunch, and more rice for dinner, with some frozen vegetables and eggs or fish. And on two days I had a small, brown apple. I wished I had bought the 15p rice pudding. I needed pudding.

I’m supporting the wonderful Action Against Hunger: ( – you can still donate here:(


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).