Eating at The Ritz, on $1.50 a Day

Brown rice
Brown rice

The inequality of wealth and poverty in the world is extremely apparent when it comes to one of our most basic needs: food. Could you live on just $1.50 per day? For the 1.4 billion people who live in the most extreme poverty -- what the World Bank calculates to be the equivalent of $1.50 USD per day -- this is reality.

Next week, I'm going to join Ben Affleck, Hunter Biden, and other fantastic luminaries in trying to go five days eating on $1.50 a day.

World Food Program USA is challenging people in our country to live below the line of poverty by limiting themselves to $1.50 per day for food and drink. As difficult as this may sound, the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty must also cover the costs of housing, health care, clothing, and all other expenses with this same $1.50!

For the next five days, my food budget will be limited to $7.50. What does $7.50 buy? Here in Boston, not much. And to make things even more challenging, I'm going to be traveling for work most of this week, including a stay at the Ritz Carlton for the Mom 2.0 Summit. The very idea of staying at the Ritz and eating boiled eggs skirts parody, but cynics be damned, I'm going to do it. I was cheered to hear that last year, the actress Amanda Peet noted sitting next to a colleague participating in LBL who happily pulled out a bag of cheap eats at an A-list Hollywood dinner during the Challenge. If she can, I can.

What intrigues me most about Live Below the Line is not the notion that people far far away must eat on so little, but that people in our own country struggle with the same, and there is very little that's green available for less than a dollar. In fact, my idea is to cook up a big batch of greens and spread them out over the week. But in truth, I'll mostly eat starches.

Most weeks, I have the luxury of being a Whole Foods shopper. I have the luxury of paying $1.50 (or more) for a single avocado if I want. And this is the point. The food movement in America is polarized between two extremes: those who must live on little, and eat unhealthily, and those who can live on a lot and choose green. In the moving new film A Place at the Table, the sense you take away is the exhaustion parents face when they have to search for the money to buy decent food. A memorable quote from the film: "If you have a limited amount of money, you're going to spend it on the cheapest calories you can get, and that's processed food."

Live Below the Line is a global movement, and you can interpret it however you want. You can check out #belowtheline on Pinterest to see what other people taking the Live Below the Line challenge are eating (hint: a lot of eggs, toast, rice, and beans). Here is my plan:

Sunday night:
- Cook 5 cups brown rice
- Cook as many black beans as I can buy
- Cook some greens
- Buy Ramen
- Boil 5 eggs

And for the following five days, I'll parse that out, throwing in some nuts, bananas, and apples if I can.

Joining me in taking the challenge are several of our bloggers from The Mission List -- a network of women who activate online via their blogs and social channels to promote social good causes. You can support World Food Program USA and their work to feed the world's neediest children by making a donation to our Live Below the Line team. World Food Program USA's mission is to bring school meals to children who need them most. For families living in poverty, one of the largest motivators to send children (especially girls) to school is the knowledge that they'll be fed a meal. Every $250 raised for WFP USA provides 1,000 meals for children in need.