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This week I am partaking in the Live Below the Line Challenge.  For the next 5 days I will be eating on less than $1.50 per day.  The idea is, by so doing, I will be able to sympathize with people who are forced to live like this day in and day out for their entire lives. It sounds very noble, and in theory I am sure it is.

I have found, however, my mind has started to corrupt this concept. From the very beginning my ego began asserting itself.

My ego said, “Hey Jim, this will be a very noble thing to do. This will bring awareness to a horrible problem and you will feel good about doing it.” And I thought, “Yeah.  Yeah!  What a great idea.  Maybe I won’t feel so guilty about the indulgent eating I do during the other 51 weeks.”

And then my ego said, “That’s right. And your friends and family will really understand what an awesome, giving, compassionate and caring person you are. “ And I was like, “This does sound like a good idea!” But yesterday, thankfully, was a pride shaking wake up call. It was the day I had to go and spend less than $1.50/day at Walmart.

Here is what I walked out with:

  • 1 lb. of enriched rice: $.84
  • 1 lb. of lentils: $1.08
  • 1/4 lb. of broccoli: $1.47
  • 5 packets of Ramen noodles: $1.00
  • 6 eggs: $1.08

Add in the 2% sales tax and my total bill was: $5.58. $1.12 per day.

I walked out of the store with my tiny little bag, such a far cry from my last trip to Costco with my family and a HUGE cart full of extravagances. I couldn’t help but dread, just a tiny bit, the week of bland eating I had ahead of me. If what I purchased yesterday was food, then what I have purchased nearly all my previous adult life can only be described as luxury.

My ego has quieted.  I now feel weighed down by what I can only describe as a kind of “survivor’s guilt.” This is the understanding that I am able to quit this experiment in 5 days.  1.2 billion other people have no such option, no set “finish line” in their future.  I remind myself that those 1.2 billion people would not feel dread upon leaving the store with a bag full of “bland” food, but would likely feel overjoyed with a sense of relief.

So is this a noble challenge?  Only if you, the reader, and I decide to get more involved, more committed to fight against the injustice of poverty.  Please help how you can and where you can.  Feel free to write me or comment on how you feel you can help those unfortunate enough to live this burden every day.

Jim with his daily meal of rice & lentils
Jim with his daily meal of rice & lentils


Shared in Blog, Staff Story
  • Dear Jim
    The simple solution on how to help the hungry in the U.S. is to mandate mandatory food rescue donation from all food establishments. There is enough food, perfectly edible food thrown away for want of freshness or perfection to feed every hungry man woman and child in the U.S. and all at no cost.

    • Kathy,
      Thank you so much for this innovative idea. I agree there is plenty of food. I would be interested in seeing more information about the mandatory food rescue donation proposal.

  • Way to go Jim, My first thoughts would have been similar I think! I also had the thought that many don’t have access to anything remotely resembling a Wal Mart or a Target or even a grocery store. That they have to walk miles to find even the meager-est of resources. Learning to move beyond our own stories and connect with other humans all around the world should be the sole effort of our humanity! Thank you for helping us to see the story of others!

    • Great points Mike! This challenge assumes the basic infrastructure that we have in many parts of this country (although we do have food deserts here too). I can’t imagine the difficulty of the truly starving.

  • Jim- this is such a cool experiment…I applaud your efforts! Can’t wait to see how you feel in 5 days…!

    • Patricia,
      Thanks! I felt fine after 5 days. My nutritious diet from my entire previous life gave me plenty of energy and fat storage, so I never suffered. It was incredibly sad to think of kids who don’t even get this much.