Oh, a JCI event…it takes one pound a day to nourish a child in developing countries…donate to support the UN millennium development goal to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty…yep, I am in” This or something similar went through my head when my thumb hit the ‘join’ button on the facebook invitation that I had received from JCI UK sometime during December. That was it – I had just committed to donate my grocery budget for one week except for 7£ to the charity ‘Save the Children’. ‘Save the Children’ works in more than 120 countries saving children’s lives, fighting for their rights and helping them fulfil their potential. Fine, I thought, this is an initiative that truly expresses JCI spirit: returning value to the community, involving JCI members actively and supporting the UN millennium development goals.
What are the UN millennium development goals? Beginning of this millennium, the United Nations started a campaign to inspire and support people around the world to take action to support eight world development goals defined by the United Nations:
– Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
– Achieve universal primary education
– Promote gender equality and empower women
– Reduce child mortality
– Improve maternal health
– Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
– Ensure environmental sustainability
– Global partnership for development
Not long and facebook messages started flying around between all participants of this challenge about how to fix a dinner on a budget of 1£, where to get the best discount deals for basic food, discussion s about the rules, does tea have to be budgeted for, can you split up family packs to reduce the price per piece… It was then when it dawned on me – they were serious!
While I thought those 7£ to be more of a symbolic token that I would retain for a living I had actually entered into a different deal. I had committed to actually live of only 1£ for food and drinks per day for a week! No food gifts or donations allowed, no cheating.
There we go, with the UK being a high price country particularly with regards to groceries I really had to think about what I could afford to fill me up on the one side and supply me with essential nutrients on the other side. After intense considerations, I went for this basket: rice 40p, porridge 65p, spaghetti 20p, chopped tomatoes 34p, bread (well toast actually) 45p, butter (cannot do without it) for 98p, bananas 68p, milk 66p, frozen vegetables 75p, vegetable stock 20p, 7 eggs 70p, onions 35p, tea 35p all together a value of 6.71£. Salt, pepper and homegrown herbs were for free. Amazing how much food you can actually buy for 7£! I was ready to go.
I suppose all participants start the days off like me: porridge made with water – tasty. The occasional banana found its way in, too. Other than that my nutrition during those seven days can be described with one word: repetitive. I only had a limited basket of foodstuff to choose from and you might have noticed that it was vegetarian. Is this the way people in developing countries nourish? Eating the same dishes over and over again because there is no choice and often enough no money to buy high value foodstuff like meat? What does this kind of diet mean in terms of energy intake? Of course, it did not cross my mind to change anything else in my lifestyle. I worked my normal hours and continued my normal exercise routine of rock climbing and running – why did my limbs not recover from it?!? The shortage of nutrients, calories and protein had taken its toll and I got a painful bill. Well, going out on the weekend was a bit awkward, too. Of course, I could not afford to buy any drinks but I just could not stay in that night! Did people notice that I did not have any drinks not even water? Well, some did some did not. But the most embarrassing moment was to actually decline a free drink! You might guess it; I did not stay out long.
And the last but not least of the challenges within the challenge: resisting cravings. Suddenly, the office smelled of freshly roasted coffee, some colleagues tried to tempt me with bacon butties, cake and chocolate – the nicer ones donated to ‘Save the Children’. But I resisted all way through and gave them a piece of my mind!
Together we raised nearly 800£ for ‘Save the Children’ – a great achievement and nobody had to suffer silently. Various social media platforms were quite busy with supporting messages from other Jaycees and friends and pictures of all the homemade meals on budget.
For myself, I have learnt a thing or two. This challenge reminded me that food is valuable. I throw away too much food because I do not plan my meals and food spoils before I consume it. Now, to me this behavior appears irresponsible towards people who actually have to live on a tight budget and those who produce food and create value. Yes, it is possible to live of 1£ a day though most people I spoke to about this challenge would not believe it. “What can you buy for 1£?!”, “What do you eat?” where the most frequently asked questions accompanied with disbelieving and compassionate looks. I managed to live off 6.22£ altogether for food and drinks for 7 days. But I have lost more than a pound in weight and missed out on a total of approximately 5,300 calories necessary to maintain my weight in that week. This demonstrates that living on only 1£ per day is hardly a healthy lifestyle for those who have to.
And yes, there is a difference between discount and premium brands! I have not converted to discount shopping after all but I am more thoughtful about what I really need to buy.
What I was looking forward to the most on the last day of the challenge? A good cup of coffee!
Ah, and another message I would like to pass on: Read the small print before hitting a ‘join’ button.
Categorised in: Charity
This post was written by Kleon West