$1.50-Per-Day Challenge: How Chefs, Celebs and TV Anchors Are Getting By

Celebrities and political figures are among the thousands of people living on daily food budgets of $1.50 during the Live Below the Line challenge, a campaign to raise money and awareness for global poverty

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Matt Sayles / Invision for Fiji Water / AP Images

Actors, singers and political figures are among the thousands of people living on food budgets of $1.50 per day during this week’s Live Below the Line challenge, a five-day campaign to raise money and awareness for global poverty. How is everybody coping?

The World Bank estimates that 1.4 billion people on earth live below the extreme global poverty level — the equivalent of $1.50 per day in the U.S. Accordingly, as many as 20,000 people have volunteered to get by on $1.50-per-day food budgets this week during the challenge, which ends on May 3.

Last week, the campaign received a major boost of attention when Ben Affleck announced his participation. It turns out, however, that the A-list actor-director is only taking on a minichallenge.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Affleck originally neglected to mention that he was only participating in the challenge for a single day — not the full five days stipulated in the program guidelines. Maybe that explains why Affleck isn’t listed anywhere on the Live Below the Line fundraising leaderboard.

(MORE: Chelsea Clinton on ‘Four Myths About Millennials’)

Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, and singer Josh Groban occupy the second and third spots, respectively, among top fundraisers. At the very top of the list is Sydney Pedersen. There’s a reason you’ve probably never heard the name: she’s just a regular 15-year-old high school student from Utah who recruited friends and family to join her in the challenge. Her dining choices for the week include dry toast, crackers and baked potatoes. How did the teenager get off to such a great start raising money for the cause? “One Friday I just sat down and called people for five hours — all the contacts in my mom’s cellphone,” Pedersen explained to the Salt Lake Tribune.

While the official Live Below the Line week is taking place right now, actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki in The Avengers) Tweeted about his experiences living on omelets, beans, rice and vegetables during his own five-day challenge in early April. Many of Hiddleston’s choices seem inspired by UNICEF’s recipe guide for helping participants make it through the week with a daily food budget of $1.50.

The Canadian Press went beyond UNICEF’s basic recipes, offering a list of tasty and economical dishes from well-known chefs and culinary experts. A caramelized-onion-and-potato frittata is suggested for lunch, and linguine with sausage and mushroom ragout is on the menu for dinner. Both are supposed to cost under 65¢ per person (Canadian currency).

Coffee is off-limits for many participants because it’s too expensive, so complaints of caffeine-withdrawal headaches are abundant this week. Restaurants, of course, are completely out of the question. Actress Sophia Bush admitted a moment of weakness during the challenge while passing by a burger joint. Next to an Instagram photo of Umami Burger, she wrote, “I suddenly understand how Superman feels when someone hits him with Kryptonite. Ouch.”

(MORE: What’s Behind Cory Booker’s Food-Stamp Challenge?)

This is the second year of participating in Live Below the Line for Groban, and while he hasn’t revealed much in the way of how he’s handling the challenge, the singer’s fans have been sharing their menu decisions. “I’ll have an egg in the morning and a salad for lunch with green tea and chicken broth for dinner and more tea,” one posted on Groban’s site.

Two local TV anchors and a news producer at WHNT in Huntsville, Ala., are participating in the challenge and sharing their experience with viewers. Anchor Greg Screws has been surviving on off-brand bologna, peanut butter and scrambled eggs, while colleague Clarissa McClain went the route of focusing on pasta and Ramen noodles. Naturally, some commenters just had to second-guess their choices: “Even a homeless person can do better with $7,” one chimed in, suggesting dry beans, corn bread and potatoes as more affordable (and filling) alternatives. “None of these people have any idea how to live frugally,” another wrote. “Frozen dinners? Prepackaged processed meals? Instant oatmeal? Spaghetti sauce? Have you people not heard of rice, beans, canned tomatoes, steel cut oats, dry pasta?”

Fifth-graders at Connecticut’s New Canaan Country School have been developing menus (and working on their math skills) that won’t go over the $1.50-per-day budget. As students filled out sample menus on worksheets, they “realized how little they could purchase for $1.50 a day,” their teacher noted in a blog post. Snacks generally consisted of bread and tap water.

(MORE: The Splurge Surge: Luxury Spending on the Rise)

At last check, no commenters bashed the menu choices made by the students. Then again, no one had commented in response to the post yet.

29 comments
anitermosquiter
anitermosquiter

If you can receive the 1.50 in one lump sum for the seven days in a week, u will have 10.50. buy rice and pinto beans or potatoes. A loaf of bread is expensive, a al. of milk is very expensive as are eggs and flour. If you ration your food. u could make it. But u would still be hungry. You can raid grocery store trash bins for bread and maybe you might find an egg or other goodies, its tough to say. You might want to get arrested so that you can have 3 squares and a cot. Ben A. is lucky, he will do this for a few days and go back to fillet mignon. By the way, catsup is not really a food group.

straydog
straydog

Is it possible to 'eat' on $1.50/day? Yes. Is it possible to eat -healthy- on $1.50/day?

Our food-related illnesses seem to indicate a resounding 'NO' on the latter. 

Fresh fruits, meats, and veggies will continue to be more expensive than the processed, chemical-laden foods filled with cheap, subsidized crop grains.

Can you live on nothing but bread and water [if you had to]? Sure...but it doesn't mean you should. Poor nutrition may sate immediate hunger, but the body still suffers physiologically from the lack of proper nutrients.

RobertGillespie
RobertGillespie

yes, this is possible to do: $1.50 a day... I started doing "something like this" occasionally years ago... at the time I only had an income of a few hundred dollars a month (without working)... I had no debts, a pretty good car... I was between jobs (jobs were easy for me to get) but I was thinking about just "living on the road" and not working... I came up with A WHOLE GAMEPLAN FOR DOING THIS... my budget was going to be only about 400. per month (without working)... 

I factored in:

a. gas for car (don't drive too much... camp at one state-park for several wks/months...

b. about 100 month per car insur

c. tent for camping out at free state facilities

d. hot water heater (mount to car engine) ...could sell "hot showers" one dollar a piece to other campers at fed/state parks...for extra income... inlet for fresh water to hot-water heater on car is done with hd garden hose in lake, etc. 

e. also, fish for extra food

...there are more details to all this... sleeping in car... to avoid bears, mosquitos, etc. ...can run heater occasionally if get cold... (location is also CLIMATE based ...south in winter... north incl canada in summer, etc.)

...anyway this comes to about 13. per day...but for everything...including stay at cheap motel (like 30.) one night a week to take break (watch tv)... sleep in bed, use full bathrm, etc.

...................................

today:  you can do this food bit by buying bulk foods on sale, use dollar stores, too...

like:

loaf of bread:  .99 (even at Target is cheap)

bulk store brand jars of "peanut butter"

cheap bulk bags of rice:

eggs at .99 a dozen I have found...

cheap discount veg store: my area 3 LBS BANANAS $1.00 (year round) dole bananas still green...

....................................................

all of the above is "manageable" ...you can even use baby wipes to "sponge bathe" in car...there are "all kinds of tricks" ...

.....................................................

now, actually I live quite well (have a lot more money...don't need to do any of this...

I was "flirting with the idea" of "living on the road" CHEAPLY (not homeless, but CHEAPLY)...

so, if you can manage just "a few hundred" a month YOU CAN GET BY ...even without working... or just work a "cheapy part-time job" and you can do this...

...........................................

there are also other ways... I know of ...even easier than this... but involve "somewhat dependence on other people" ...maybe explain this in other posts... also can do this in many other places "in world" even easier...

my website:  dimestop.com

has email thing on it someplace if you need


JonathanEverettWright
JonathanEverettWright

Seems the point of this is getting lost in all the fanfare. The point is that no one should have to live on $1.50 a day. Not a "How To" on living in poverty. Point is being completely lost!

qmalmborg
qmalmborg

How do celebs live on $1.50/day? Millions in their bank accounts. I believe that's called "slumming it."

Trentiicus
Trentiicus

Give me $7.50 for the 5 days and I can live on that for those 5 days easily... But if I only got the $1.50 per day, each day of the 5 days then it would be VERY difficult.


Trentiicus
Trentiicus

Okay, riddle me this.... So they talk about living on $1.50 a day for 5 days... So if you are in the position to live on $1.50 a day and that's all you got was $1.50 PER day (not all at once for the 5 day period), how would you do it?

kchance9
kchance9

$1.50 a day won't get you very far. For food I recommend going to local supermarkets and restaurants. According to policies set in place many businesses have to throw out food after it has passed the expiration date. All that food ends up in the trash and new food is shipped in. This is a constant cycle. By contacting the business you can arrange for that food to be given to you. It may not be the best quality, but it is better than going hungry.

Elleoop
Elleoop

What a joke. $1.50 a day...this guy couldn't live on $150 a day. Who is he trying to kid? $1.50 won't even pay to gas up his car, his lear jet or buy him a pack of cigarettes; not to mention his Starbucks.

sidewind69
sidewind69

some ppl still earn $1 daily for ALL expenses

family ect..

food is just cheaper and maybe healthy too in countries.. you grow your own here for any costs.. that or get on snap biaat

anorr
anorr

Does anyone else think this $1.50 a day value is a bit unrealistic?  Not because many people in the world live at that level of income per day, but because in those countries, cost are MUCH lower than here.  The US poverty level for one person in the US is 2013 is $11,490.  I'm not saying that is a lot, but it is $31 a day. Sure with rent etc. this doesn't go too far, but this person might be receiving food stamps as well.  The average food stamp amount in the U.S. is about $4.50/day.  

Maybe if they made this event better replicate the realities, more people would respect it.  

Cassidy
Cassidy

i'd buy barley and beans.... its by and large all the gladiators ate, and they seemed to do pretty well off it....

SageNia
SageNia

This must be a government article in backlash. Nothing mentioned here is affordable unless in bulk (single package with funds put together by multiple people) in order to possibly make this story accurate. Nice try uncle same. Let's see someone push an article about why the haters, Venezuelan's, only pay $.04 gas. I guess the replacement is to have the Donald come on board to talk about OPEC and false presidency.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Wow, affleck pledged to live on a buck fifty for ONE day. Don't go overboard, Benny boy. Wouldn't want to see you drop dead of starvation or malnutrition or some such. I'm just coming off the master cleanse after a week, cheated a little but actually not much. Highly recommend it. Even just have a meal a day for a few days and you will surely feel the difference.

splash
splash

that seems pretty decadent for $1.50 a day. 100s of millions of people would be lucky to have the meals listed in the UNICEF recipe guide

MLA
MLA

$2.00 more for food a day is substantial.

RobertGillespie
RobertGillespie

important tip secret:  most people "stuck in failure mindset trap."  many homeless...stay that way...

I (use power of mind)...get what I want...waste little time "blaming system"...system is somewhat to blame...but "most people" waste too much time trying to change, fighting with others in system... instead "think/IMAGINE" get yourself out "of your SELF-IMPOSED LIMITS..."

you look at my website:  dimestop.com ...you see some stuff I do, am involved with... no big deal... I do "much more" than even my website would indicate...

you can do "much more than YOU LIMIT YOURSELF TO... if you stop believing "bullspin" of other's with "limited imagination" ...(most of whole world econ/social/gov/academic paradigms, etc....I do "end-run" around all this... BEAT SYSTEM ...big start part is by not "subscribing to THEIR LIMITATIONS" ...I don't need their "academic credential stuff" can do way "better than most" without becoming "slave to their system, etc."

some what I think/plan:

living in Asia, So. America, Europe... live well with no job... (their are ways...)

right now, I have no time for this... too much other stuff to do/work on... can't be total selfish profligate... just running around world... fooling around... have to help others... not just party and have good time... (like that... not rich like movie star...but far from poor...so I commend "famous successful type people" for their effort...)

it up to people THAT HAVE "MORE THAN ENOUGH" to devote "some time" to help other less fortunate, etc.  (would like to be living in Tuscany...driving Lamborghini thru countryside, etc....but have to sacrifice those ambitions...to "greater good" of all... (like that you should do... but first "you need to get self" IN POSITION TO "HELP OTHERS!"  ...like that it be...

anitermosquiter
anitermosquiter

@JonathanEverettWright  That is very true, but people do it all the time. It,s horrible, I agree with u. My mama had to figure out how to feed three children and it was really hard. She would cry a lot. We went to gramma's house but then gram had to provide food for 8, that's where potatoes, beans and rice come in handy. Life can be tough, so u better have character and backbone to deal with it. My mom never applied for welfare or food stamps because she always said chains are attached to freebies, and we don't be. So we found ways to earn money, we returned bottles for the deposit money, we mowed lawns, baby sat, we ironed clothes and crocheted and and did other odds and ends. Things got better!!

jefnvk
jefnvk

@JonathanEverettWright Unfortunately, it is not that simple.  If everyone in the world living on $1.50 a day suddenly had twice that amount, the supply of food is still the same.  Now, instead of being poor and hungry on $1.50 a day, they are poor and hungry on $3 a day.


Population control, where people locate themselves, and food production are key, not the actual cost of what people pay.  Plenty of self-sufficient people even today that live on nothing a day, looking at just the dollar amount is not the best measure.

jefnvk
jefnvk

@Trentiicus True.  Stretch it out to $30 for a four week month, it is even easier.  Buying simple ingredients in bulk saves.  Buying bags of flour, rice and beans, while becoming very monotonous in a hurry, is what these people do, and how you would best be served.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Certain businesses have a policy of no refrigeration, period, at all. You can get good deals there, but like you said, it won't necessarily be the freshest food around.

jefnvk
jefnvk

@anorr It is not supposed to replicate exactly, just be a good point maker.  Also, you must take into consideration that $1.50 a day is what they LIVE on, not what they eat on, a big modification made to make it even possible here.  Can't pick up a place to live for $15 a month here, like you could in an Indian slum.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

THAT is the poverty level for one person here? That is not poor at all. If you live a simple and basic life, you can easily manage with that. But it would take some discipline and little or no fun. I have lived on this amount practically my whole life and sometimes even less. Go live in a third world country for many years and you will know struggle.

anitermosquiter
anitermosquiter

@splash If those people lived here 1.50 a day would be much, but maybe in their own country, 1.50 might be a fortune

anitermosquiter
anitermosquiter

@splash I had lots of fun one year, I told my kids that it was time to learn to budget. I told them that they had to plan a thanksgiving dinner with 35.00 and I gave them a newspaper, with grocery store sales.