My week of living below the poverty line: day 2

November 24, 2016 23:06

Barely a day goes by at the Jewish Chronicle without it being someone’s birthday, daughter's Bat Mitzvah, or uncle's wedding, and there is always, always cake.

“Have some, you must, if I give it to you it is free.”

By 11.30am it felt like if I had £1 for every time someone offered me their bagel, I could have raised half my £200 target for charity in one morning.

Telling a Jewish office you were only eating what was in front of you was like turning up at your granny's and saying you were not hungry – they just didn’t get it.

And I was peckish; it is usually at about 11.45am that I reach across my desk to a safe place where fellow reporter Sandy and I keep our snacks.

They range from nuts, rice cakes, biscuits, chocolates, crisps to whatever we can get our hands on. Only this time she was reaching alone and I was chewing my fingernails.

It didn’t take long after I announced my participation in the Live Below the Line challenge to be contacted on social media by tons of people to tell me all the things I was doing wrong (this is obviously to be expected).

But the comments ranged from: “You’re missing the point, maybe you could mention some of the issues that aren’t addressed, instead of witty lines about your mozzarella.” Fair point.

Or: “I've read a few things about this challenge and most people's conclusion is that ‘it is hard to live on one pound a day’ but we already knew that.”

In fact I disagree, because while I miss my daily Starbucks and I'm sure it is far from easy, I’m far from climbing the walls as some on Twitter would have you believe.

Then there was a friend in Cambodia who said: “What it doesn’t address particularly is that people in places like Cambodia don't have a Lidl where they can go and get a variety of food, usually it is just rice and some half rotten veg twice a day."

He added: “I know, I've eaten it and its s***. Long-term under nourishment is a big problem here, particularly when every two or three days you might miss a meal entirely.”

He offers to set up an interview with someone who really lives below the line and I accept.

Then there was the mother of three who after reading my blog and inspecting my shopping list got in touch to say “you shopped all wrong, moaned about not having pudding but you could have quite easily had it".

We exchanged numbers and within seconds of receiving the message on Twitter she was telling me about how, when she was made redundant, after paying bills, she only had 27 pence per week a day for food.

27 pence a week – would feed a family including meat dishes.

She said: “What you should have done is gone to the markets in Ridley Road, or Spitalfields. At the end of the day the traders are giving away the stuff.

“It might be about to go off but I would take it home, prepare the veg and freeze it for when I needed it next.

“Same with the butchers; go in and ask them for the bones, they make a great soup or get the off-cuts, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

“And when you need to feed a family you will find a way.”

We end the chat with me tucking into my dinner of a fried egg sandwich (which I really enjoy anyway), feeling inspired by the sheer savviness of people to survive.

Off the back of my first day people all over the world were in touch with me talking about the 1.2 billion really living below the line.

A testament, surely, that like them or loathe them, charity challenges get people talking about the matter at hand.

And yes, of course, I was well aware all I was ever doing was a five-day game of living with just a taste of how that 1.2 billion live.

I was never in the dark that I would be doing it in the comfort of my own home, with the ease of using a low-cost supermarket and a mum who would take me there.

November 24, 2016 23:06

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