My Memories of Eating Below the Poverty Line

4 years ago

Last week, various folks participated in a campaign called Live Below the Line to bring awareness to living on $1.50 a day.

The goal is to experience what it is like to ration your money to buy food. Not good food, not healthy food.

Just food.

I feel somewhat detached. Now anything that will help a child get near nutrition needs is okay with me. It is just that...well, I remember being a kid in that situation.

Image: LexnGer via Flickr

And because I remember I don't think the people trying to live on $1.50 a day for five days really get what is going on. What a life can be like and what decisions go into your head when you don't have enough to make it from one meal to the next.

Yes, it is one thing to say you are spending $1.50 a day when you have shelves full of spices, seasonings, and pantry food.

If folks really took it seriously then when they went to the store they would find out about limited choices. Nutrition is not one of them. You can't do $1.50 at Whole Foods; well maybe if you are feeding yourself and you buy an eighth of an ounce of beans and a quarter-pound of rice.

Nope, you need to go to the broke folks food store and work the numbers. They are not in your favor.

Childhood Eating Memories

As a kid I've eaten dinner when there was nothing in the house to eat but a half box of oatmeal and hot water -- going on day three of it.

Or rushing to nab the hot dog and a portion of a can of beans before one of your brothers snatches an extra one for himself. No time for slackers at a limited food table.

How about when you are handed a $5 bill and you are a told to go to the supermarket to get something for dinner for six people and you are expected to bring change back home. I had a lot of experience with that scenario.

For the record, I usually stuck with the cheapest pasta and imitation Ragu type tomato sauce I could buy.

Or it could have been a loaf of bread and ground beef. With some of the butchers in the old neighborhood there wasn't that much beef in it. Plenty of gizzards though.

Notice I didn't mention veggies or organic choices or unprocessed meats. They were not affordable options. Potatoes if they were on sale; maybe.

It Isn't Just About The Food. 

It is also watching television and seeing all this food you do not have access to. It is being reminded that you don't have the right to a whole range of foods, tastes, and experiences.

It is watching Julia Child on television and watching her make a wonderful meal and not connecting to the reality that some people really do eat that well.

I'm glad I watched her show because it inspired me to want to taste new things. Yet there was a disconnect. I remember being that kid biting into a chicken bone to get at the marrow (chicken used to have marrow in their bones back then) while she was making Coq au Vin.

I and many other kids had no breakfast. Or it might be that lunch was the meal of the day. Depended on how the day went for the parents; if there was day work, temp work or any kind of work.

It isn't about the food as much as it is about infrastructure, and what do we expect grown people to do when they can't be crowbarred into programming, technology, or service jobs?

How do you make a living?

How do you take care of the family if you have no money?

How do we keep pretending that we can turn a whole society back to pre-industrial wages and have no clue that we are hip deep into the future?

I don't know.

I do know I was doing a bit of disassociation when I saw tweets about the campaign. It is the kind of hunger you just don't forget. Or want to remember.

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer Contributing Editor. My Blogs: Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

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