Below the Line: the challengeIf you follow me on Twitter you have probably seen my recent musings about Below the Line. I wrote about it on Babble last week when it was announced that Ben Affleck was going to lend his star power to this poverty awareness campaign. I am participating in Below the Line’s challenge with other women from the Mission List to benefit the World Food Program USA.

So. What is this challenge? For five days I will live on $1.50 worth of food and drink (per day). That amount is the U.S. equivalent of the extreme poverty line. I am participating so that I can talk about it, tell you about it, remind you of it, spotlight it, and then let you know that there are organizations that are able to help. The organization that I am working with is the World Food Program USA. Every $250 my team raises will provide 1,000 school meals.

Yesterday was day one on the challenge and it brought up some unexpected emotional issues.

First of all you guys know that I am on a path to get healthy. This means that I have been making great choices about what I eat and when I eat. Eating regularly was one of the odder milestones that I conquered as skipping meals was something I had started doing for any number of reasons. Worried about weight? Don’t eat. Worried about money? Don’t eat. Not eating was one of the things that helped keep me fat.

And I have veered off onto a fat tangent.

But you see? Weight and hunger are pretty intertwined. I can say this because my family lived below the line and I gained weight. The biggest reason why I gained weight was stress about not having security in my life. The next big reason for weight gain was crap food was what I could afford to stock the shelves with.

Because stocking shelves is what you learn to do when you are on public assistance. You shop for the sales, for the bulk buy days, and you end up celebrating that you just spent $3 on 10 boxes of really horrible for you orange day-glow powder mix pasta. If you want to make your dollar stretch the first thing you learn is to not buy organic. Heck don’t buy fresh!

Back to yesterday and my emotional, reactionary, knee-jerk moment on challenge day one.

I skipped coffee in the morning. I felt guilty ducking into the coffee shop where I always work (borrow their wifi) on Mondays when W is in school. Thankfully no one seemed to mind that I was just drinking the free water from their beverage station.

When it was time to pick up W from school I went overboard making sure he had this amazing lunch with all of the food groups represented. I knew once I got him down for his nap that I would need to think about my lunch. But I didn’t want to. So far I was dealing with the $1.50 challenge by not eating.

When I finally stood in the kitchen ready to calculate what I could prepare myself a rush of aggression flooded over me. I was in my kitchen stocked with food. Healthy food. Available food. This was NOTHING like real poverty. It made me feel smug and awful and entitled.

Then I remembered. When my family was below the line we were often surrounded by food. Other people’s food. We were invited to eat at the homes of friends often and we were so thankful. But yes, I remember being a family in poverty surrounded by food and how weird and complicated and hard that was. When you live below the line it feels like the entire world is a have and you are a have not. It’s a horrible, beat-down feeling.

I later made myself an egg and ate it slowly.

More posts from my team mates on this journey:

Heather from Poliogue
Jessica from A Parent in America
Kelly from Mocha Momma
Jessica from Found the Marbles

We are all pretty chatty about this experience on twitter and available for questions or dialogue.

{Just to be clear: This is not a sponsored post. This is a post about a subject I am passionate about. There is no compensation involved.}

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