Monday, 5 May 2014

Looking back on #LiveBelowTheLine

This time last week I was starting my #LiveBelowTheLine challenge. To live on less than £1 a day for 5 days.

The whole aim of the challenge was to raise awareness of the 1.2 billion people on this planet who do the same. The crucial differences being that they have to pay for EVERYTHING out of that amount, not just their food and drink bill as I have done, AND they have no choice about taking part.

Let's be honest my challenge was a gimmick.

I can't for a second claim to understand what the very poorest in society are going through. I made a choice to take part in the scheme and if things got too tough I could have given up.

Nevertheless I think the whole challenge opened my eyes a little to the problems that are very much hidden right here in our own communities.

The first thing that struck me during the week was that it's not difficult to stay full on a pound a day, there is always 18 pence noodles from budget supermarkets which contain 600+ calories to fall back on.

It is however exceptionally difficult to eat healthily. When you are faced with a choice of a filling meal for less than 20 pence or fresh vegetables, currently being heavily advertised by one leading supermarket, at 49 pence the choice (or lack of it) is fairly obvious.

What was a surprise was the number of people right here in Coalville who are living on around a pound a day today and every day.

We hear so much about food banks but simply by talking to people about food poverty you will hear stories about how people you never imagined are living on the edge.

I have been  shocked to hear so many stories of local people who after paying utility and other essential bills are eating on miniscule amounts.

The stories of people waiting until 9.55pm before going shopping as the supermarket closes to ensure that they will pick up food at its most reduced price.

The stories of mixing stock cubes with super noodles to make filling soups which will make the 18 pence staple last two days!

The stories of parents missing meals to try and pay for children's shoes or a simple birthday present.

Because we don't see people starving it doesn't mean people aren't going hungry.

Perhaps the biggest thing that struck me though was the isolation that follows.

When I went to Coalville Town's vital play off game (and I do know if I had really been on the breadline I wouldn't have been able to afford going to the football) I couldn't afford to have my normal beverage. It felt like I was left out.

When cakes were being given out at work I couldn't have one because if my challenge were real I couldn't afford to reciprocate. I felt a little ostracized.

And then I remember the elderly lady who used to look forward to her lunch club and could no longer go because of cuts. She doesn't feel a bit left out, she feels lonely, isolated and desperate.

I'm not going to change the world by taking part in #LiveBelowTheLine. I do very much hope that I can tell people about my experience and hopefully by working together we can consider just a little more those people who have no choice but to live on the edge.

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