Living below the line

09 May 2012 Voices

What is it like to live on just £1 per day? Judith Rowland is finding out as she participates in the 'Living below the Line' project.

Judith Rowland is taking the Global Poverty Challenge

What is it like to live on just £1 per day? Judith Rowland is finding out as she participates in the 'Living below the Line' project.

It is a bit embarrassing to have to say no to a coffee date because I’m living in extreme poverty. Today I am one of the 1.4 billion people around the world who live on £1 each day.  But unlike them, I am doing it out of choice.

As I Live below the Line for the Global Poverty Project I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of extreme poverty. Of course the project represents a practical challenge - I’ll be living on £1 a day for five days for all food and drink. But it's also providing a lot of food for thought.

Currently on my third day of the challenge, it's made me think creatively about what to consume -  there's actually a lot of good things to eat out there. But what has been the most difficult thing is finding social things to do with friends that don’t involve food and drink. I’ve been to three birthday parties wherein I’ve had to sit with a glass of tap water watching my friends enjoy canapés. Living below the Line this week has shown me that extreme poverty is about so much more than money or food - it's also about choice and dignity.

Freedom of choice

The developed world has the luxury of picking between literally hundreds of different types of food each day. Comfortable incomes give us the option of avoiding recalled items and tossing out the browning head of lettuce from the back of the fridge. During the 2008 salmonella scare the developed world was able to transition away from tomatoes and eat other foods that had not been affected by salmonella. Tomato farmers who live below the poverty line don’t have the luxury of making this choice.  

My strategy for Living below the Line has been to purchase all of my food from the 'Reduced to Clear' section at my local supermarket. Last night I had planned to make a stir fry but when I opened my fridge I found that the head of broccoli I had purchased for 20 pence had gone mouldy. Buying more broccoli wasn’t within my budget so I had to eat my noodles plain. 


Last month I travelled to Kenya to visit a friend and observe the work that she is doing in the slums of Nairobi. We had lunch in the slums and I was delighted to sample maize-meal and stewed vegetables. But as I bit into my lunch and heard something crack, I quickly realised that I had chipped a tooth. Back home as I sat in the waiting room of my family dentist to fix said chipped tooth, I remembered the vast number of people who don’t have access to dental care to address their broken teeth. No parent wants to provide his/her children with unsafe food. In parts of the world, where diarrhoea causes one child under the age of five to die every 3.8 seconds, improved sanitation, access to clean drinking water and food would make a real difference.

I’m Living below the Line in May because the money that I raise for charity organisations will have a real impact on the lives of people living in extreme poverty. I believe that all people should have the opportunity to eat food that has been safely prepared and that will nourish their bodies. We have the technology and tools needed to eradicate poverty and all that is needed is a concerted effort from the global community. You can sign up to Live below the Line by visiting the website at Or, (cheeky plug) you can sponsor me at  


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