Live Below the Line Challenge: An Insider Perspective
By BSOC Philanthropy Subcommittee
From the 19th to the 24th of July, the UNSW Business Society participated in the Live Below the Line Challenge, hosted by Oaktree Australia, where participants were challenged with living on $2 worth of food per day to raise funds and awareness for the millions of people for which this is a daily reality. To give you a bit of insight into the extent of this challenge, we asked Philanthropy Subcommittee members Eric and Miranda about their experiences living on $2 a day. Here’s what they had to say;
Starting the challenge on Sunday, I was a little nervous but also excited to do something this meaningful. It felt a little weird not being able to have a late-night snack, but it was only the first day, so I dealt with it by shifting my attention to the piles of lectures I was yet to watch.
On Monday I slept in quite late in the morning, so I skipped breakfast - quite an unhealthy decision but hey; I was living on two dollars a day. By midday it was finally time to prepare my first meal, and it was decently filling despite my paranoia of leaving enough food for the rest of the five days. By about 5 o’clock, my stomach was growling again, so I made dinner, which consisted of Mi Goreng with some potato wedges on the side.
On Tuesday I woke up just in time for breakfast and had a pancake for a morning treat (I could only make one pancake, but it was better than nothing at all). I noticed that I couldn’t quite concentrate as well during my tutorials, but I got through it alright. After a lunch of pasta and beans came the most dreaded part of the day - soccer training. Physical exertion coupled with my restrictive meal plan left me exhausted by the time I got home, so I gulped down some more Mi Goreng. Hunger and tiredness meant that I couldn’t concentrate at night, so I chose to watch Netflix with friends instead of doing work (oops).
Wednesday was similar to Tuesday except without the exercise, so I felt much better. I seemed to have rationed my food quite well, and was really glad that we were half-way through the challenge. I was super grateful that so many of my friends had taken the effort to donate and to support such a great cause, and that gave me the motivation to keep going.
Thursday was the last full day of LBL. I tried my best to force myself to listen to lectures, but all I could think about is what hunger cravings I would satisfy when Friday was over. I had soccer training again – this time I tried my best to explain my situation to my players and walked when I could, but nevertheless hunger struck me again when I returned home. I treated myself with more potato wedges and stuck through the last night, looking forward to the meal I would have in 24 hours’ time.
On Friday, the last official day of LBL, I had lots of pancake mix left over since I kept sleeping in and skipping breakfasts, so I treated myself with some extra pancakes to start the day off. Unfortunately, by the fifth day, my claim of being able to ration my food well went down the drain, as I had run out of baked beans, which were replaced by some packets of Mi Goreng flavouring that I hadn’t used earlier. The mix tasted unusual to say the least, but by that time there were only 5 hours to go so I couldn’t care less - the only thing in sight was the finish line!!
When I went shopping for Live Below the Line and carried home almost 4kg of food, I was confident that I had bought enough to comfortably last five days. I chose to buy mostly carbohydrates, and had Weet Bix for both breakfast and lunch, followed by baked beans on toast for dinner. If I had followed the serving sizes on the package, this carb-loading diet would have lasted me for 7 days. However, it was very difficult to stick to my original plan.
Over the week, I didn’t eat with my family because I felt guilty for not eating what my mum had made, and I would look pitiful eating Weet Bix next to them. From the third day onwards, I began to feel the effects of this restrictive diet. I was hungry and tired between meals and could only snack on more Weet Bix, which was very unsatisfying. Every time I saw cooking videos or food-related Instagram stories I would feel jealous and quickly skip over them. I stayed in my room to avoid the temptation of seeing snacks in the kitchen, and as a result I talked to my family less.
When drinking coffee in the morning I realised I hadn't calculated it into my budget, and worried over whether I could afford to add milk and sugar; something I would always do without thinking about. I also had to stop myself from getting coffee refills during my study breaks and made a conscious effort to sleep early so I could concentrate the next day.
On the last day, I ran out of milk and was forced to choose whether to eat my Weet Bix dry or with water. I had finished all of my food by breakfast and restlessly waited for dinner time when I would be able to eat again. Finally, I was able to eat at the dinner table with my family, and fruit and vegetables have never tasted better!
Overall, Living Below the Line gave me a new perspective on how food impacts our lives. Constantly worrying about food and being unable to eat with others because you can't afford to is something I had never thought about before, and this was definitely a valuable experience that I would recommend to others.
With the COVID-19 pandemic estimated to tip 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020 - an addition to the 690 million in 2019 (World Health Organisation), there is a growing importance to contribute to the relief of issues such as world poverty and hunger.
With the help and support of our community, we are pleased to announce that the Business Society reached a total donation amount of $3,977 for Oaktree’s Live Below the Line Challenge, placing us as the top fundraising team as of July 2020.
However, we could not have done it alone. We wish to thank and congratulate all of our 30 participants who successfully ate on $2 a day. We would also like to extend our gratitude to all of those who supported and donated throughout the week.