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1400 Kiwis try poverty for a week

By Amelia Wade

Hundreds of New Zealanders who joined five-day awareness campaign survived on just $2.25 a day and raised $300,000 for charity in the process

Actress Anna Hutchison relished the chance to take part in the challenge and raise awareness of poverty. Photo /
Actress Anna Hutchison relished the chance to take part in the challenge and raise awareness of poverty. Photo /

More than 1400 New Zealanders this week attempted to live below the extreme-poverty line and make do with only $2.25 worth of food and drink for each of five days.

Their efforts raised almost $300,000 for charity.

The challenge was to put yourself in the shoes of 1.4 billion others who are forced to live off that amount - the New Zealand equivalent of the extreme-poverty line.

But those truly "below the line" have to stretch that amount to cover other living costs as well.

The aim of the Live Below the Line campaign was to change the way people think about poverty and to raise funds for one of eight anti-poverty organisations that they chose to support.

New Zealand's director for the Global Poverty Project that co-ordinates the challenge, Will Watterson, said at the beginning of the week that he was thrilled by the enthusiasm.

"It's so exciting to see well over a thousand Kiwis standing in solidarity with the world's poor."

Mr Watterson said he saw the effort to end extreme poverty as the great challenge of our generation.

"This is the generation that could see an end to extreme poverty ... It's time to make our mark on history."

All Black legend Jonah Lomu, Black Stick Kayla Sharland and actress Anna Hutchison all took part in the challenge.

Hutchinson said to be able to raise awareness of poverty was the reason she chose to live on so little for five days.

"As a child growing up in New Zealand I never thought twice about where my food was coming from, the endless supply of clean water in my drink bottle, the fact that if I was ill my healthcare was provided for or the wonderful education I was receiving.

"It wasn't until a family holiday in Vietnam when I was 11 that I realised not all kids have it so lucky," she said on the Live Below the Line website.

Clinical nutritionist Linda Outhwaite said that the diet I adopted for this report (see related story) had valuable nutritional components, and was good value for money.

But long term, it did not have enough nutrients to sustain a healthy adult female, who needed between 1500 and 2500 calories daily.

"On average you obtained 750 calories from your food, except on Friday, when supplies were low, you only consumed just under 500 calories."

Ms Outhwaite said there were not enough carbohydrates, protein and fat, and the diet was not sufficiently varied to supply the required vitamins, minerals or antioxidants.

Living on $2.25 a day

Monday

A 10c ration of oats and water had to do for breakfast. I planned to buy potatoes for lunch after learning how to cook them in the microwave on YouTube. I also bought an apple.

When the checkout woman said "that comes to $2.23" my wide eyes gave away the surprise - 91c for two potatoes and $1.32 for a small apple.

I blew my day's budget on lunch.

Tuesday

This is a real test of self-control. Colleagues are picking over trays of sushi a reporter brought in. "So this one's salmon," someone says.

The quarter cup of brown rice, juice from tinned tomatoes and bits of cauliflower and broccoli from a frozen bag are not doing the job.

The concoction was divided into two containers - one for lunch and one for dinner. It was bleak.

This morning ethical food code No 1 was broken. I bought non-free range eggs, a dozen for $2.99. When in a pinch...

Wednesday

Today I watched a slow-motion video of flaming berries falling into chocolate and ice flying through milky vertical streams. It was a mistake.

As was buying eggs over oats. Always, always go for the filling carbohydrates.

There was one moment of happiness: there was more rice and watery tomatoes than first thought. I even put too much in the bowl and couldn't finish it. Not finishing a meal is new to me - if it's there it gets eaten.

Thursday

Last night I threw caution to the wind and ate a third kiwifruit for pudding. But that meant just one for today. So there went afternoon tea.

The nausea from being ill is over but now all hunger pistons are blazing and there's not much to calm them. Hot water doesn't taste very nice and regular water's boring. So is rice. Rice two meals a day is really dull.

I'm pretty over it.

Last night

The midnight burger is so close, I can almost taste it.

There was just one portion of the rice and canned tomato concoction left today, so it seemed smart to hold out until I simply had to eat and made it a breakfast and lunch combination. Then I just have three eggs and a kiwifruit to get me through to midnight.

Besides knowing the difference between hunger because you're bored and real hunger, here's what I've learned:

- You're cold all the time. Even with a jacket and scarf at work I was cold.

- You're not much fun. This has been one of the dullest weeks I've had in a long time. I felt like I was constantly about to have an emotional breakdown.

- Baking smells even better if you can't eat it.

- NZ Herald

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