On the breadline

below the line

Our eldest daughter Ella is never more than five minutes away from a new project – she’s only 19 but so far she has been a ballet teacher, a beautician, manned the front door of a nightclub and turned into a cupcake-maker extraordinaire. Since she left for uni in September the old social conscience has kicked in and she came home after her exams on Saturday announcing that she is going to spend the next five days living on a pound a day to raise money for Concern Worldwide.

I was glad I hadn’t gone the extra mile and made Nigella’s everyday brownies to celebrate her homecoming – that would have wiped out her five day budget in 16 chocolatey squares of gorgeousness right there – and she doesn’t even use posh chocolate in that recipe.

Live Below the Line (belowtheline.com) is a campaign supported by Oxfam, Save the Children, Unicef, Concern Worldwide and others to highlight the plight of the 1.4 billion people who have just a pound a day to feed themselves. To be honest I can’t really see how she’ll survive on a pound a day. I’m ashamed about how much I spend on a daily basis at the supermarket. I must have spent the best part of £50 on sausages, burgers and salad the other night for our impromptu barbecue. OK I was feeding the 12,000 – well 12 – and we did have plenty left over to feed us all the next day, but still.

But Ella is nothing if not determined – she became a vegetarian when she was 12 and didn’t crack once – not on curry nights, Christmas dinner or wedding hog roasts. She only switched back to meat two years ago when she won a volunteering trip to Africa and knew that the only thing on the menu would be something she and her hosts had had to kill themselves.

She went shopping on Monday. She left with a fiver and came home with a carrier bag straining at the seams with value rice, pasta, a packet of stock cubes for 15p, some baking potatoes, a bread mix and some instant noodles. Not exactly a balanced diet, but as she pointed out she’s not going to contract beriberi or pellagra in just five days. Babies in some parts of Africa are not so lucky.

Meanwhile I’d nipped across the road “for a pint of milk” and come back £8 lighter after buying dishwasher tablets, a bottle of olive oil and a bargain bar of Galaxy.

We’ve just survived day one. I say survived because it’s a bit like living with a recovering alcoholic. I felt guilty just putting the kettle on for my regulation three cups of coffee before I start work and banned the little ones from eating chocolate or drinking Ribena in front of her. I cooked kebabs for dinner and opened the kitchen window as wide as I could and practically stuffed a blanket under the door to stop the smell wafting up the stairs.

My worst fear was that her younger sister would stumble into the kitchen and absent-mindedly snaffle one of the freshly made bread rolls she’s made to perk up her stock cube-flavoured soup, thereby starting a civil war of Sierra Leone like proportions.

But so far so good – no lapses yet, though she is mainlining on back-to-back episodes of Ace of Cakes and has bagsied a curry for Sunday lunch (or possibly breakfast) when her challenge comes to an end. She also pointed out, as she was preparing her supper of rice and roasted sweet potato, that Doughnut is actually living higher on the hog than she is at the moment – his diet of boiled rice and mince is running at £2.40 a day and that’s without the sausages Katy slips him.

Ella is writing her own blog about Living Below the Line here so do feel free to drop by – and do sponsor her if you can. Remember every pound provides three not-so-square meals for a baby, child or adult somewhere in the world for whom a takeaway coffee represents twice their daily food budget.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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