For five days, 16-year-old Kyogle High School student Gwen Palmer will live on a diet that costs $2 a day to learn what it is like to live below the poverty line.
Gwen is taking part in the Live Below the Line campaign run by the Global Poverty Project, which challenges Australians to feed themselves on $2 a day (the Australian equivalent of the extreme poverty line). From August 2-6, she’ll be living on a diet of lentils and rice and the cheapest groceries she can find as she raises sponsorship and experiences just what life is like for billions of people around the world.
“I’ve done the 40 Hour Famine before and I know I will have enough food to keep going, but I need to appreciate what it really feels like,” Gwen said.
Gwen and three other Kyogle High School students – Tara Thomas, Jessimin Horder and Tay Hogan – are taking part in the campaign and they will soon be discussing meal plan ideas and the cheapest places to shop.
“It’s crazy how much I look at food differently now,” Gwen said. “I bought a muffin at school the other day for 80c and I thought ‘I won’t be buying that next week’.”
Gwen said she will go shopping with her $10 before she starts to live below the poverty line and has a framework for the sorts of meals she will be able to afford to make.
“It will be mostly filling foods like rice, oats and lentils and I’ll buy cheap vegetables and a bag of cheap fruit that I can space out over the five days,” Gwen said. “Lunch at school will be trickiest meal. I won’t have carrot sticks and hummus every day. I’ll keep my nutrition up and make sure I get enough vitamin C.”
Gwen said she planned to make up big pots of soup and dahl on the first day and then try to change what she had at each meal.
“I might end up having oats for breakfast and I’ll try the potato and egg fry-up recipe I saw on the campaign website,” she said. “While my parents will be having a nice dinner each night, I’ll be having my cheap dinner,” Gwen laughed. “My parents are very supportive. I couldn’t do what I wanted without them.”
Gwen has recently won a Kids in Community Award and has participated in a Make Poverty History road trip to Canberra to talk to politicians about poverty issues, so it’s not surprising that she’s taking on this new challenge.
“Some people say I’ve been campaigning for poverty for years, but now I’m thinking about it on a daily basis,” Gwen said. “There are 1.4 billion people living in poverty conditions through no fault of their own, doing it every day – that’s six times the Australian population.
“What gets me is the idea that the people in this situation have no choice in the matter and it’s my duty to help out.”
Gwen said that the money raised in the campaign will be going towards education programs in Cambodia and encourages other Australians to join the campaign to help raise money for the children there.
“The Cambodian poverty statistics are horrifying,” Gwen said. “Students there don’t go to school because they have to work to raise income for their families. To be educated is a way out of poverty, but they can’t afford it and this is a way to help them as well as learn about what it’s really like to live in poverty.”
If you think you can live on $2 a day and want to give it a try, you can sign up at www.livebelowtheline.com