04/30/2013 10:48 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

Living On $1.50 A Day Feels Impossible...and It Should

We're not inclined to upload photos of artisan sandwiches to Instagram, but this week we're going all out for good reason. Except there'll be no pictures of arugula or baguettes in sight.

We've taken on the Global Poverty Project's Live Below the Line challenge to spend $1.50 a day on food and drink for five days. This meager sum is the global poverty line delineated by the World Bank and is the amount someone living in extreme poverty in the U.S. would spend on food, drink, transportation, health care and more.

Through these efforts, we're raising funds and awareness for UNICEF, which gives 90 cents for every dollar to fight for health services, gender equity and basic needs for underserved women and children.

So why are we doing this?

At Impact, our page may be bright pink, but some days feel definitively dark. There are mornings when, admittedly, we plan our story budget and we wish we could just swap out the bleak for the blithe. But what keeps us going is knowing that fighting issues like extreme poverty takes extreme action, and we are a space that's dedicated to solutions.

Though we can never replicate extreme poverty, we at Impact are only more compassionate journalists when we empathize with the people we write about. And thinking about the decisions we make when it comes to food makes us realize that the price most of us spend on a sandwich is the same amount we can pay to buy a mosquito net and save a child from contracting malaria.

But before solutions, we start at the beginning -- understanding how we arrived at swapping our standard lunch fare (which, actually, wasn't all that exciting to begin with) for spaghetti and peas.

The $1.50 amount is estimated by averaging the poverty line of the world's 10-20 poorest countries and then standardizing them country-by-country based on domestic food prices, according to the Global Poverty Project.

Poverty is the root cause of so many topics we write about -- lack of access to education, gender inequity, health issues -- conversations that are the cornerstone especially for our Global Motherhood section. This space, dedicated to highlighting the plight of disadvantaged women and children and finding solutions, calls out important news and opinion at a time when, as Former Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton puts it, "Women's rights are the 'unfinished business of the 21st century.'"

We are humbled to be able to raise awareness and funds for an organization that supports key issues we care deeply about. It was wholly our personal choice, but we want to fully disclose that we are partners with the UN on a number of campaigns and initiatives.

And Live Below the Line is just that -- an actionable campaign that helps. But of course it's not the ultimate solution. As Charles Kenny wrote in BusinessWeek, ending extreme poverty isn't enough -- people must earn a livable wage. He writes:

"Not until everyone lives on a decent income -- perhaps 10 times what's now considered to be 'extreme' poverty -- should we give up the fight."


Please check out our blog below. We'll be updating daily with photos, thoughts and other items (hopefully) of note. And, if you're interested, learn more about our efforts here.


05/03/2013 2:29 PM EDT

Day Five


Banana: 25 cents


Couscous: 30 cents

Beans: 40 cents

Pepper: 20 cents

live below the line

Notes: Not feeling too bad. This was a pretty good meal and actually similar to what we would normally eat for lunch. Although, somebody did tell me it looks like kitty litter in this pic. Glad it was after we ate it. Anyway, it's our last day! We'll write a wrap-up blog after we hook ourselves up to a Diet Coke drip this weekend. Check back Monday! UPDATE: Check out Eleanor's post-Live Below The Line blog here.

05/02/2013 12:12 PM EDT

Day Four


Rice and beans: 60 cents

Notes: We found cheap boxed rice and were really missing green vegetables, so we threw in some canned green beans as well. If we could have afforded it, we would have loved some black beans, too. Most of the food with fiber (read: food that would make us full) costs more than empty starchy calories. It's a reminder that calories are cheap but nutrients are not. And we could really use some fiber, if you know what we mean. Ugh, it's rough going on day four. -- JP

live below the line


1 hard-boiled egg: 25 cents

1 cup of instant coffee: 0.5 cents

We staved off eating breakfast for as long as possible to try and stretch out our food for longer. Stopping to eat at 6:30 p.m. is painful

05/01/2013 12:57 PM EDT

Day Three

5:30 p.m. EST: Not accepting free pastries feels wrong. And right. Sigh. -- EG


2 peanut butter/banana sandwiches:

18 cents: 1 tbsp. peanut butter

32 cents: 4 pieces of Bimbo white bread

25 cents: banana

75 cents total

Notes: We wanted to buy everything at the street fruit stand today. Avocados are truly beautiful.

04/30/2013 2:51 PM EDT

Day Two

MIDNIGHT CHEATING ALERT: No amount of water could soothe my hunger pangs last night, so I decided to dip into today’s peanut butter stash and slab about half a spoonful on a piece of a roll. So there you have it: I cheated, and I'm sorry. I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never look at sneaking into the kitchen late at night the same way ever. Not everyone has that luxury. P.S. I really miss you, Diet Coke -- EG


$1.00 1 lb. of spaghetti

$1.00 peas

$3.50 tuna

$0.50 2 hard boiled eggs

live below the line

Savoring. That. Last. Bite.

Notes: We made 8 portions to split between the two of us with this. $6 total.

04/30/2013 12:58 PM EDT

Day One

10 cents coffee

10 cents crackers

$1.30 potatoes, carrots, 3 small squares of tofu -- serving for lunch and dinner

*Notes: Ethnic stores are where it's at. I went to an Asian market and got these incredibly cheap vegetables and bulk tofu so each square averages out to just 5 cents.

live below the line

live below the line

Eleanor Goldberg: 4 saltine crackers never tasted so good.

Check out our discussion on HuffPost Live below.

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