Could you live below the line?

ramen noodles with meatballs
Chef John Placko
John Placko is a Toronto gourmet chef who specializes in molecular gastronomy. So it was rather odd to see him on stage at Nella Cucina last month simmering dried split peas with water flavoured with a quarter of a stock cube for lunch and tossing instant ramen noodles with mini meatballs for dinner.

But it was all for a good cause, one that should make us all stop and ask … could I live on $1.75 a day?

That’s how much money 1.4 billion people around the world have to spend every day, for everything. About 60% of them are women.

From April 29 to May 3, the Global Poverty Project is sponsoring Canada’s first Live Below The Line challenge. Their goal is to raise money and awareness for the many people in extreme poverty.

Last year, 15,000 people from around the world took part in the U.S. Live Below the Line challenge, raising more than $3.5 million for anti-poverty causes. Organizers hope to attract more than 2,000 Canadians this year.

Those who register for the challenge at are encouraged to try to feed themselves on $1.75 a day per person for five days so they can get a glimpse of how difficult it is to survive on so little.

Could you do it?

I’d be raiding the bulk food store for sure, and eating lots of lentils! Dried peas and beans are another smart choice, cheap and nutrient-dense. Placko’s soup, with a little ham sprinkled on top, was delicious and only 56 cents a person! So was his 55-cent breakfast – microwaved oatmeal mixed with yogurt and grated apple.

While ground meat isn’t cheap, rolling it into tiny meatballs would give a whole family a treat. Pairing the meat with pasta or grains is a clever way to fill yourself up for a few hours. Forget luxuries like extra virgin olive oil, butter and dark chocolate.

Fresh fruits and vegetables present a bigger problem. A bunch of nutritious rapini is cheap at $1.99, blowing my whole day’s budget. Though I suppose I could eat a little every day. Frozen veggies would be a smarter choice.

Even if I pay only $1 for a big tub of strawberries, it won’t fill me up for long and they won’t stay fresh for a week. That leaves me picking through the bargain-bin fruit that’s past its prime and only fit for smoothies.

Money raised here will support Cuso International, which sends skilled volunteers abroad to work with local groups, Spread the Net, which buys mosquito nets to prevent the deaths of 3,000 children a day, RESULTS Canada, a national volunteer network and Raising the Village, which brings education to rural African villages.

So spread the word, register and start planning your meals, or send money!

Representatives from all four groups were at the Nella event – young and earnest, ready to change the world. It was a refreshing change from huge, faceless charities with their glitzy lotteries and TV ads.

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