Lifestyle | Living below the line

I think it’s fair that students are stereotyped as always being hungry. Walking around campus, I’ve seen students snacking on anything from toffee popcorn to the slightly more ambitious chicken kahari. So when given the opportunity to take part in the Live Below The Line challenge, I fully understood that I’d be hungry. What I didn’t expect was for my definition of hunger to be completely rewritten.

Live Below The Line is a fundraising and campaigning event which challenges the public to live on £1 a day for five days. Across the world, over 25,000 people are taking part in this challenge to raise money for the world’s leading poverty organisations. For five days, the public have been invited to experience the everyday struggles of people living below the poverty line.

On Sunday, shopping list in hand, I trawled through the shops to find ingredients with which I could play around for the rest of the week, but the truth is £5 really doesn’t get you much. After much deliberation, these are the products I eventually settled on.

£1.79 18 eggs
54p     2 loose granny smith apples
40p     1kg long grain rice
£1.00  1kg mixed frozen veg
79p      soy sauce
45p      IL orange juice

What I realised immediately was that I only had enough food for two meals a day. I prioritised breakfast and dinner. Thankfully, tap water isn’t part of the budget so I found myself drinking as much as I could to make up for the lack of food.

Living on £1 a day isn’t enough. Even though I’ve only been experiencing this lifestyle for three days now, I’ve noticed significant changes in my energy levels – they have hit rock bottom. Lack of concentration, fatigue and irritation are just a few of the side effects, however hunger is the most pervading. I have come to cherish meal times, to eat them as slow as possible in order to savour every mouthful. I look at my housemate’s food with envy, glad to know that I’ll be able to pig out in just a few days.

But for me, the biggest concern is that whilst my experience of Live Below The Line is a choice, for over 1.2 billion people, it is reality. In fact, most of those below the poverty line are living on even less – with the £1 a day often expected to also cover the costs of clothing, education and travel.

The money raised from the campaign goes directly towards long term improvements which include better access to local markets and fairer prices for the farmers. I came to understand that Live Below The Line event isn’t just a test of will power, or of dealing with hunger. It is about dealing with the realisation that for billions of people, food is never guaranteed. For people all over the world, food is not a basic human right.  

For more information about the Live Below The Line, an ongoing challenge between 28 April– 2 May, visit

Emily Watts

Photo: Property of Genna Naccache/Save the Children

Leave a Reply