Living below the poverty line

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson
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I CAN eat. I mean really eat.

Every couple of hours I’ll be tucking into something and if I miss a meal I feel like my throat’s been cut.

I’m ashamed to say that the words “I’m starving” have often passed my lips in such times, when really I’m just a bit peckish.

The dictionary describes starving as “to suffer extreme lack of food”, apparently not fancying a Snickers from the vending machine but having no change.

And on this basis I decided that maybe it’s time I realised what the 1.4bn people who are really, really hungry are going through - while raising a bit of charity cash at the same time.

The Global Poverty Project’s Living Below the Line 2012 campaign will see hundreds of people spend just £5 on food and drink from today until midnight on Friday.

It’s a tall order, just have a look around the supermarket on your next visit and see what £1 can get you.

You’ll be quickly drawn to the filling carbohydrate-based foods such as rice, pasta and pulses.

They’re no delicacies, but they keep the majority of the world’s population nourished – to an extent.

That’s because they’re cheap and don’t cost the earth to grow.

Vegetables, fruit and especially meat are high value produce, with most costing a lot to look after and reap.

Having a balanced diet goes out of the window and I’ll be living on a bland mix of stews and broths until Saturday. Even salt and pepper has to be accounted for.

So why £1? That amount was defined by the World Bank in 2005 as being the “extreme poverty line”. If that is all you have in your pocket, you’re seen as being among the world’s poorest.

This week’s campaign is based on food and drink, but that £1 in real life also covers health, housing, transport and education.

I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t even cover my energy bills, in fact it wouldn’t get close.

Hartlepool Mail columnist Chris Eddowes, a Global Poverty Ambassador with the Project from the Grange Road area of town, took on the task early and completed the challenge last month.

The chairman of Hartlepool for Global Peace and Justice Group and our Around the Churches writer said: “It definitely gave me a better insight into how people suffer.

“In this country you are in poverty if you don’t have a TV, but there are people across the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

“I wasn’t very hungry during the week but bored. We eat to enjoy, but when you have just £1 you are eating to get by. It’s a real eye-opener.”

Indian human rights campaigner Gandhi called poverty “the worst form of violence”.

I won’t be living that horror, but hopefully I’ll be a little closer to knowing more about it.

I’ll let you know how I get on, and I’d be grateful if you could spend a couple of minutes thinking about the campaign next time you tuck into a pastie.

To donate to the Global Poverty Project visit my fundraising page at www.livebelowtheline.com/me/mailmark