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At least I have food to be bored with. LBL Day 5.

This should be the end of my Live Below The Line challenge.

Tonight, this should be all over.

But for people living in poverty, in forgotten households and pockets all over this, one of the richest nations in the world, there isn’t a store cupboard to go back to.

There isn’t a shelf with paprika and garam masala on, or a trough on the window ledge with coriander and chillies in.

There’s no magic cupboard of carefully built up resources to fall back on.

I remember those days all too well. Scratching around in the bottom of the fridge for half an onion and yesterday’s tomato pasta, cobbling together something, anything to eat. Picking the green spots off the side of a week old loaf of bread and pretending you can’t taste the sour yeasty tang that kicks at the back of your throat, because mouldy bread is better than no bread at all.

I have raised well over £2,000 for Oxfam as I sit on my sofa and type this.

But is it enough? How can I stop now?

I have got left the following items from my original £5 food shop on Sunday:

Bread, 11 slices.
Lemon curd, less than half the jar left.
Cornflakes, 390g.
Unsweetened soya drink: 650ml
Long grain white rice: 485g
Chopped tomatoes: 400g
Kidney beans: 300g – already made into kidney bean burgers on Tuesday, and frozen in patties.
Frozen mixed vegetables: 525g
Spaghetti: 500g
Onion: 1
Broccoli, carrot, courgette and green beans: 120g
Mixed herbs: most of the jar.

I have done it. I have lived off £5 for 5 days, with three or four meals a day (save forgetting lunch twice!) and judging by my calculations, I have £2.77 of that food LEFT at the end of it.

So.

I am going to continue with my live below the line challenge until there is nothing left.

Yes, I’m bored of cornflakes. I’m bored of rice. I’m bored of tiny diced mixed vegetables. But AT LEAST I HAVE THE LUXURY OF HAVING FOOD TO BE BORED OF.

Those who might balk at the thought of another bowl of rice with another bowl of vegetables – I challenge you to take this challenge.

I challenge you to walk in my worn out shoes for five days.

I challenge you to join the hundreds and thousands of people in this rich and well developed country that watches every penny as the prices of the value ranges creep up in the supermarket, to feel exhausted by insufficient nutrition and the slow consumption of your mental wellbeing as you begin to obsess about every gram of rice, making portions smaller to have more of them, juggling processed carbs and eating food almost a week past its sell by date.

The Live Below The Line challenge is open until June.

Five pounds. Five days.

A friend gave me a saying the other day, before she embarked on the challenge herself:

“Anything about us, without us, is not for us.”

Don’t claim to know what’s best for a person until you’ve walked in their shoes.

Tomorrow brings day six, a bag of untouched spaghetti, and I will see this thing through until that list runs out.

Because once upon a time, I didn’t have a shelf of herbs and spices to fall back on.

And every pound I raise, is another pound towards tackling poverty.

To donate to Live Below The Line, a global poverty project, click here: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/agirlcalledjack

If you are taking part in this years Live Below The Line challenge and want to share your experience, get in touch at jackmonroe@live.co.uk

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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12 replies »

  1. No no no no no no.

    Don’t go hungry any more days- you’ve made your point, and you need to be spending your focus on your little boy.

    Contact me any time and I will send you supplies.

    It makes me very concerned that people are even starving in the UK, but if people aren’t helping each other- that’s much worse.

    Your life with your son is more important than any cause, and you are clearly a most talented writer and fund-raiser.

    Don’t develop diabetes or kidney problems: you have much more to contribute I am certain.

    The world is full of evils and needs strong brave people who will speak out.

    Someone told me years ago- you have to be well yourself before you can help anyone else.

    It’s true.

    Loads of people care about both you and your cause.

    Slow down. Let people help.

  2. “But for people living in poverty, in forgotten households and pockets all over this, one of the richest nations in the world, there isn’t a store cupboard to go back to.”

    Genuinely open question, ‘why are the pockets of people who do not have food it their cupboard’? Is it as ‘simple’ as increasing benefits by £5 a week so people can buy more food? Would ‘educating’ people so they can better prioritise spending on food staples and then go on to create nutritious meals? Is it that providing supermarket vouchers rather than cash would help facilitate fuller shelves?

    I could take part in the challenge and I’m sure I would have a far better view of how it felt to be in this situation but I’m not sure I would have any better view of how to help people either get out of it, or as importantly stop them falling in? I want to help rather than to feel righteous.

    What is the root cause of these poverty pockets and how can the problems they create be alleviated?

    • I could write a huge explanation but I wouldn’t do it as well as the Enough Food If campaign would – which tackles four main causes of food poverty (including distribution of food throughout the world, food education…) It’s a collaborative effort between lots of different charities, they’re taking it to the G8 summit this year.

      (by the way, I don’t feel righteous. I just don’t feel like I can stop just yet.)

      • Thanks Jack, I will take a look at the site (http://enoughfoodif.org) and try and understand the issues better…although I’m pretty sure you could write a very readable and insightful introduction to the area which would help get the points across to a wider audience.

        Please don’t think for one second that I was suggesting you do what you do to feel righteous, I’m just trying to find a way for me to make a difference rather than making myself feel better!!

  3. I have been reading and thinking about your blog and campaign this week. I have a couple of questions and concerns.

    The money you’ve raised is going to Oxfam. What are they going to do with it and how will it make a difference?

    I am concerned that you, Jack Monroe, may be in danger of developing an eating disorder with your determination to control your food intake and spending. Hungry people don’t ‘forget’ to make or take their lunch.

    Having eked out your supplies so well, I’d have thought you might have treated yourself to a proper sized and properly filling meal at the end of the week, to use up your supplies and celebrate the fact that you don’t have to be quite so spartan with your food any more.

    I believe your campaign is worthwhile and I admire your determination to highlight such an important and fundamental issue, but you will be better placed if you are properly fed and in the best health you can be, to pursue the work you have taken on.

  4. Thank you. I finished my £5 challenge yesterday. You’ve said what’s real about this far more eloquently than I could.

  5. If you are determined you have your reasons. But I don’t speak lightly- have damaged my health many times for idealism and determination, trying to make a difference, sometimes naively, and now I am getting older- it’s not so easy to recover.

    My son is grown now, I don’t have to worry what will happen to him if I am not here.

    Do take care of yourself, I KNOW you have your place in this whole debate, I sent you my email and do please contact me if the occasional case of tuna will help!

  6. I respect your decision, but I have a question. If you have food left, then surely you needn’t have felt as hungry as you did for the past week? Did your nutritional intake need to be so severely low?

    • I did calculate ‘what I could eat’ every day if I split the shop between 5 days, and it was 4-5 slices of toast, 100g pasta, 200g rice, 200g mixed veg etc … Which I thought rather defeated the idea of the challenge – when I was struggling to feed myself and my son I wasn’t having 5 slices of toast for breakfast! The meals I had were a pretty ordinary size, they were high in starchy carbohydrates and low in protein which is why I think I was hungry again quite quickly.

  7. I’m rather speechless. I have 3 boys. A husband. We don’t go hungry. We live abroad, not a bad life. I see the news about the UK and never is there a mention about poverty. Or hunger. I read about you today in the Daily Wail. Probably one of the best articles they’ve ever written. You are simply amazing, an inspiration – and so young. I will be going online and donating to Oxfam, in your name – for you and SB and all the people like you or worse off.
    Get yourself out there, talk loud, write loads, blog away, make a stand. Thank God for people like you.
    Sorry, I’ve rambled a bit for someone who started being *speechless*. I can’t begin to imagine that one of my boys would have to ask for more breakfast – and not get it.

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