As Lent begins today, I’m embarking on a week-long Hunger Awareness Challenge. I read about this challenge in Bread for the World’s 2011 Offering of Letters kit. It’s based on a Global Hunger Challenge that was organized last year by Inter Action.
The premise of the challenge is simple: An estimated 1.5 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day – but what does this mean in our context? What if we could only afford as much food as the average Haitian?
This is where some fancy math came into play. A Haitian living on $1.25 per day is the equivalent of an American spending no more than $34.33 on food for five days. According to Inter Action’s website, here’s how they came up with the figure:
“We reached this number by multiplying $1.25 per day (the majority of Haitians live on this amount or less per day) by the number of Haitian gourdes required to buy an equivalent amount of goods or services in the United States (purchasing power parity), which the World Bank calculated as 24.9 in 2008. The average American spends 15.757% of their income on groceries (this number was unavailable for Haiti), which gave us our final number.”
My husband decided to take up the challenge as well and he will later post his experiences on his blog. However, we decided to use the $34.33 budget for a full 7 days. In comparison to hunger in our own country, the maximum amount that a single person can receive on food stamps per week works out to be around $46 (source).
To add to the challenge, I (a) wanted to eat as healthy as possible and (b) wanted to find meals that are relatively quick to prepare, as I have a busy work schedule during the next week. I decided to do my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s (my favorite grocery store!), because that’s where I’ve generally had the best luck finding healthy products at a low cost. So here’s what I got:
- 2 cans of albacore tuna = $2.98
- 1 can of organic kidney beans = $1.19
- 1 container of salsa = $2.99
- 3 bags of organic spinach = $5.97
- 2 cans of black beans = $1.78
- 1 can of cannellini beans = $0.89
- 1 large container of organic cherry tomatoes = $3.49
- 2-pound bag of organic fuji apples = $2.49
- 1 half-gallon of calcium-added organge juice = $1.99
- 1 bag of organic whole wheat penne pasta = $1.39
- 1 carton of cage free, hormone free eggs = $2.49
- 1 package of whole green tortillas with rolled oats & ground flax seeds = $2.49
- 1 half-gallon of 2% milk (not organic, but at least rBST-free) = $1.99
- 1 can of canola cooking spray = $2.29
In total this came to $34.42, just 9 cents over budget. I could have made budget had I opted for a second can of cannellini beans instead of the organic kidney beans, but I didn’t want to hold up the line while I made this exchange. My biggest sacrifices will be spending a week without coffee, tea and wine, but I’d rather go organic on some food and do without these luxuries.
Next week I’ll share my post-challenge reflections, low-cost recipes and I why I think this challenge is important in light of drastic budget cuts our government is trying to push through that will hurt poor and hungry people.