This year all three LJY-Netzer Movement Workers decided to take part in Live Below the Line, in order to raise money for Tzedek and raise awareness that 1.2 Billion around our planet in extreme poverty. Live Below the Line challenges participants to spend only £1 a day on food and drink for a week. That’s £5 for the whole week, probably less that a lot of people spend on lunch for one day!
There are people that don’t like Live Below the Line, people that say it’s people playing poor and is patronising, others saying that it just isn’t comparable in anyway, people in the developing world don’t have soup makers or electric hobs. There are also lots of costs that we didn’t get into account, lentils are cheap and easy to cook but take a long time and the longer something takes to cook the more you spend on cooking it.
However, when we have raised a significant amount of money for Tzedek and got a lot of our friends and colleagues talking and thinking about the issue and that I can only see it as a good thing.
I went in blind, I didn’t do any research or look up any recipes, this was a mistake. I spent over an hour walking around Tescos taking items from shelves, putting things back thinking about potential meals & combinations. I know other people who went to supermarkets just before closing time each night to get the reduced food – I didn’t have time for this. In the end this is what I bought:
1 x load of bread (40p), 2 x baked beans (48p), 1kg long grain rice (45p), vegetable stock cubes (30p), 0.3kg red onions (25p), 0.5kg baking potato (49p), chopped tomatoes (34p), 10 eggs (£1), 1kg frozen mixed vegetables.
I didn’t think I did too bad but while shopping came my first moral conundrum – the eggs. These were Tesco value eggs, 10p each, let’s be honest there is no way these were free range organic happy chickens. Normally I would pay a bit more as I truly believe in ethical consumerism but with this shop I couldn’t…or could I? Should I have devised a shopping list of under £5 then bought the most ethical version of each product? I would be eating the same food, the same amount of food just slightly more ethical and I don’t think it would have enhanced the taste, at least not by any noticeable degree. As the week went on and I asked more and more people about this I got varying answerings none of which has made it clearer in my mind.
My other big dilemma was free food. No not a mate going ‘what if I pay for your pizza’ – some people just don’t get it, do they? But every meeting I go has some sort of food or snack and if it’s not eaten it gets thrown in the bin. Should I be standing on some sort of moral high ground raising money for those who are less privileged than me while I watch perfectly (and sometimes surprisingly) good food slip into the bin. Food waste is a terrible disease of modern society and should I contributing to it out of pride or fear of accusations of cheating? Again the old saying of 2 Jews, 3 opinions came about every time I asked for advice. Still no clearer to finding a satisfactory answer.
As well as a few moral dilemmas there were three things that I found either more difficult than I thought or never even thought about.
- Water is all I drank for a week. I don’t drink tea or coffee anyway and ye I have the occasional beer after work but 85% of the time I drink water anyway. The lack of choice though, the fact that not even one drink a day could be something different, by the end of the week I was missing different drinks more than food.
- The variety of food I ate for the week was, while larger than the liquid I drank, was still not vast. For breakfast some combination of eggs and toast plus the occasional baked beans. For lunch and dinner it was rice or potatoes most days, with some combination of vegetables/chopped tomatoes plus the occasional baked beans. I cooked some nice meals and it was the first and only time I took photos of my food for the internet but it was just the same over and over and over again. It was so demotivating. There are some pictures are the end of the some of my meals!
- The last thing that I found hard was something I didn’t even think about beforehand. You have to plan where you are eating in advance. You didn’t bring dinner to work and you get a text to go out for a drink afterwards, even though you know you can’t drink, you want to go and be social. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue because even if don’t eat dinner out, you would (or at least I would) have been snacking during the day but when you have lunch 12:30 and then end up waiting until 22:30 to eat again, it’s hard.
So that was it: a hard, thought provoking week but I did it and with the rest of my LJY-Netzer colleagues raised nearly £1000! Don’t worry if you haven’t donated yet, you still can, just go to https://www.livebelowtheline.com/team/ljy-netzer
Tom Francies, my thoughts are my own (just about) and I don’t represent the Movement or other Movement Workers.