Wrapping Up–Live Below The Line

“How does it feel when you got no food?” 

Pass the Dutchie  by Musical Youth is playing in the background as I start this post and it seems very appropriate.

So, how does it feel when you have no food?  What can I say about the Live Below The Line challenge?

Day 5 Dinner - Plan vs Actual - Live Below The Line

I don’t want to talk about the food I ate or the dishes I created. I want to talk about the experience. Sort of. There is certainly a big part of me that doesn’t want to talk about the experience. That doesn’t want to share with you that I cried, that I got bitchy, that I felt isolated, that I got angry, embarrassed, hurt and shut down.  I don’t want people knowing that I get like that. You know… human.

I do want people to know that those emotions are real. That I’m not alone in feeling them. That this is what happens when you are struggling to feed yourself and struggling to feed your family.  Poverty and chronic hunger are emotional.

It was hard. No shit.

I was hungry. No surprise.

I was emotional. I think I mentioned that once or twice.

It was hard work.  Counting every penny spent in every meal is a pain in the ass and takes a lot of time!

Here are the FAQ:

What did you learn?

I still have some baggage around the times I’ve been truly hungry.

The language nuance between being “broke” and being “poor” is significant to me. I’m sure I’m not alone.

I hoard food and will suffer now to avoid suffering later.

It’s easier with a partner. Thank you Gerry!

There are a LOT of people who have struggled with hunger and think about the issues in smart and creative ways

Basic Home Economics skills like cooking, budgeting and nutrition are critical in fighting the impacts of poverty and hunger in our society.  They won’t fix them, but they will help!

I am happy I don’t have to try and live like this with children.  I spoke briefly with my mother about this.  After she stopped berating me for not asking for money when I was struggling, we discussed how awful and terrifying it must be to deal with this kind of poverty with children.

My mother, who has taught in some very poor areas, said “if you have kids, you make compromises with yourself that might otherwise make you throw up.”

How much did you raise?

I have raised $308, and my team as a whole has raised $1568. Thank you ALL for your contributions and to the Bloggers Living Below The Line for doing this with me – Andrea, Bridget, Jayda, Meghan, Rhonda and Vivian. We each came at the challenge from different place and I learned from each of you.

If this journey has engaged or entertained or moved you, please take a second and donate through my Live Below The Line Page, to Second Harvest, to Daily Bread Food Bank, to the Stop or to your local Food Bank or Food Security Charity. Or learn more through the Community Food Centres of Canada

Would you do Live Below The Line again?

No. There are diminishing rewards to doing this again and again since it would become more of a game each time. Finding ways to do it better, to beat the rules and eat better to prove that I can do it. I don’t want to trivialize this challenge.

For me this was an authentic revisiting of the emotional impact of being hungry and struggling for the next meal.  I have delved into my past with hunger and unearthed some emotions, behaviours and memories I’d be happier not to reinforce in my life. And living like this does just that.  It doesn’t clear them, it pushed me back down into that dark, hungry and lonely place.  I have zero interest in living there again and I certainly don’t want anyone else to live there either.

It was also a stark reminder to guard others against living like this.  To watch for the signs in others when they won’t speak up for themselves and work towards a world where no one understands what I’m talking about.  Wouldn’t that be great?

This is why I invest so heavily in HoHoTO and Toronto Taste.  And why I accepted the Live Below The Line challenge in the first place.

Could you do better?

Yes. But again, the goal of this exercise is awareness and education. It’s not proving that I can do this, or even do it better than you or the people who have to do it every day.

This was not an exercise in superiority it was an exercise in empathy.

Note: this post is part of my Live Below The Line series where I will be on a $1.75 food & drink budget from April 29th-May 3rd.
This is a game for me but a serious reality for 1.4 billion people in our world today.  Help support me by donating, or supporting Second Harvest and Daily Bread Food Bank.  

If you want to know more about what I’m involved in, you can read my disclosure statement here.

Alexa Clark

Alexa is a digital marketer and author with over 20 years in digital & interactive communications in the food and tech industries. Alexa's CheapEats Restaurant Guides, for both Toronto & Ottawa, were Canadian best sellers. She is a recognized authority on social media and has been named one of Canada's 20 Leading Women in Social Media.

6 thoughts on “Wrapping Up–Live Below The Line

  • May 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    agreed… it was not a fun challenge, but i had fun doing it with you

    • May 8, 2013 at 9:44 am

      grrrr AlexaClark I’m so glad you two had each other while working through this challenge. 🙂

  • May 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I loved following along with you, Alexa! Thank you for being so open, and for giving it a go. I can’t imagine people that have to live like that without choice. Seldom do they have the kitchen and equipment that we take for granted as well. Plus, just knowing HOW to cook – as prepackaged food isn’t the answer.

    • May 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      bakingbeauties Thanks!  The support and insight people have shared in the comments have really helped keep me on track too.  
      Your points about the kitchen and equipment we take for granted is spot on.

  • May 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Following the posts and tweets about this challenge has made me think a lot about these issues. It’s terrible that people don’t have the wherewithal to feed themselves and their families properly. A lot of it is about money. but I think a lot is also about skills. How many parents today know how to prepare a simple, nutritious meal for their children? I was encouraged to hear recently about a move to put more emphasis on teaching these skills in Ontario high schools. However, all the knowledge and skill in the world can’t make living on $1.75 a day tolerable. If was difficult for people like you and the other food bloggers, with a vast array of knowledge, equipment and a return to a non-hungry life guaranteed, how must it be for those for whom this is a daily, grinding reality? Really, it’s just sad. But there is hope in knowing that there are people working to combat this situation and I hope to contribute to this cause in whatever small way I can.

  • May 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Alexa. And for what you continue to do for the world around you.


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