Live Below the Line

Some acquaintances of mine have chosen to do the Live Below the Line challenge. It is an awareness and fundraising campaign tackling the issue of extreme poverty.

Whilst I am, like all humans with a heart, devastated by the plights of those having to struggle to live their entire lives below the poverty line, I find issues with this campaign.

The idea is that us privileged folk in the UK get sponsored for trying a small sample of what it is like to have just £1 per day to feed yourselves for five days. A noble challenge which could teach us a lot about our eating, waste, greed and choices whilst raising money for a good cause, I do not deny this. My main issue comes with the advice given in the recipe guide section of the website. Now, I'm aware this may seem like nit-picking, but I do feel it is important, so bare with me if you can.

The shopping list given for the trial is as follows:
2 packs of passata (500g each) – 29p each
1 tin of kidney beans - 18p
1 bag of apples (5 per pack) - 71p
1 Wholemeal loaf (800g) - 47p
1 box of 18 eggs - £1.50
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables - 73p
1 bag of spaghetti - 25p
1 jar of curry sauce - 17p
1 bag of rice – 40p

Can anyone spot what might have irked me most? No, it's not because I'm gluten free and couldn't get pasta or bread that cheaply- it's the eggs. If you are buying 18 eggs for £1.50 they are most certainly going to be from cooped up, caged chickens with a poor quality of life. I understand that in the developing world choice is not a luxury they have. What I don't understand is why people striving for improvements in the world with one head would be using the other to promote absolute evil on our own fair isle, where we do have the luxury of choosing where our food comes from and how it is looked after before it gets to us. 

Also, how much of the food on that very cheap list do you think is Fairtrade? Surely it makes more sense to put money back into the countries providing us with goods, by supporting their farmers and buying their produce at a reasonable price so they can earn a fair wage? Buying rice for 40p to raise awareness of those suffering of extreme poverty, whilst ripping off the impoverished Indian and Thai producers who break their backs harvesting the stuff seems a bit counter-productive to me.

So it's a good idea, and I believe as a nation we should look at our greedy, gluttonous, spoilt ways, but I don't think supporting battery farms and exploiting third-world farmers is the way to go about it. Surely there are better ways to educate the people. Maybe a collaboration with the Love Food, Hate Waste guys might have been a better venture? I'm sure they'd have lots of good, sustainable advice for keeping cost and waste down without being detrimental to the cause.

I for one will not be joining in with this challenge, but I will continue with my own personal efforts to be less wasteful and more appreciative of my lot, and will be supporting those elsewhere by buying Fairtrade on my imported items. If everybody did the same, we'd actually notice sensible changes with our broken food production industry and could all go to bed with a slightly clearer conscience.

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