Locals take on poverty challenge

Leo Joy and his family completed the Live Below the Line poverty challenge, eating on less than $1.75 a day for five days. Here's his story

Sherri Joy

Sherri Joy

Leo Joy

Special to The Morning Star

My family and I completed the Live Below the Line Challenge going five days, eating on less than $1.75 per day. We did it to draw attention to 1.2 billion extremely poor people on this planet and to raise funds for RESULTS Vernon, a local group dedicated to ending this crushing and completely unnecessary poverty.

I have been a poverty advocate for over a decade yet I was stunned at how ill prepared I was. With a low income and four kids, I have lived in poverty for most of my life and I thought this would be easier than it turned out to be. Eating healthy is a top priority: lots of veggies; few packaged foods; I prepare most things from scratch.

But this is much harder.

Sheri Joy is a bookkeeper and tax preparer. She measured and costed everything. Sadly, coffee had to go and it quickly became clear that we could fill our stomachs but good nutrition was not going to happen.

Curtis Williams is a gifted cook and had high hopes of developing some cheap but nutritious meals.

Day One: We started with enthusiasm and trepidation. A large bowl of large flake oats with nothing. Just oats. By the afternoon Sheri and I had caffeine withdrawal headaches and added a three cent tea bag, which we reused all day long. It helped. No cream, of course. That would be six cents.

Sheri became so grateful that her mother taught her how to garden and cook. We supplemented our diet with fresh herbs she grew in pots.

They added flavour and desperately needed nutrients.

Day Three: We are both cold and listless. Not enough food to stay warm. We ate some slender quesadillas for supper. No condiments, of course.

They didn’t go very far and the cheese put us dismayingly over budget.

Sheri had a bath to warm up and we went to bed after supper because we were exhausted.

Day Four: I could barely focus.

Apparently I attended a meeting. I struggled to pay attention and I don’t remember a single thing.

And yet, we are so glad we did this. Doing the challenge has been an education. Raising funds for the poorest of the poor is our goal but like so many times before, doing something for someone else brought unexpected reward. We have a deeper understanding of chronic malnutrition as a barrier to progress out of poverty and our (fuzzy) thoughts have been on the two billion people who survive with chronic malnutrition.

Curtis did the challenge his own way and hated it. He says it was a miserable experience. Even a gifted cook needs raw materials.

The last day! We used our left over cents to squeeze in some food value and our thoughts were more focused. However, it was too little. Sheri usually goes days without making a single error but on Friday and Saturday, quality control flagged about 50 per cent of her work with errors. Some of them were so elementary that her co-workers have declared, “never again.”

I was asked if we were going to feast at midnight. I thought of the 1.2 billion people who live on less that $1.75 per day with no escape from the crushing poverty: I couldn’t do it.

Recovery: It has been over a week since we finished. My body craved protein for days. Sheri’s appetite and energy are still fluctuating. I have fasted for 10 days and 30 days in the past and it is much easier to go without food. Trying to survive on a poor diet was really, really hard.

We are all glad that we did it. I am more determined than ever to support RESULTS Vernon in helping the poorest of the poor climb out of extreme poverty. In the last decade, child deaths from poverty have plummeted 60 per cent. The number of people in extreme poverty dropped from 2 billion to 1.2 billion. We have an ambitious but realistic plan to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. What we need now is for people to show up, take action and make it happen.

RESULTS Vernon’s next meeting is Wednesday, June 10 at 7 p.m., in the Community Room at the Vernon library.

You can still donate to the Live Below the Line Challenge at https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/leojoy