Yesterday I went to the grocery store with $7.50 jingling in my pocket. I left my wallet – including my credit cards – at home.

On purpose.

I wandered the aisles looking for food that was high in nutrients and low in price. Food that would fill my belly, provide me with energy and help me save my few precious pennies.

I had to avoid my normal staples – spinach and apples and almond milk and pretzels – and instead opted for the cheapest loaf of bread, bananas and box of noodles.

I planned my menu carefully in my head. No more green smoothies for breakfast – I needed protein and calories, so that meant eggs and toast. Salad was out of the question – high-quality vegetables sat solidly out of my price range – so lunch became a peanut butter sandwich. And instead of chicken or a quick trip to Panera for dinner, I was looking at a bowl of noodles. Plain. 

I’m beginning to think I’m a glutton for punishment.

Today I begin the Live Below the Line challenge. For the third year, I will spend five days eating and drinking on less than $1.50 in honor and support of the 1.2 billion people living below the extreme poverty line around the world. Every year, I think about backing out. I think about how tired and hangry and decaffeinated I get, and I just want to quit. Because the honest truth is that the challenge is HARD. That’s why it’s called a challenge.

But then I think about people I have met. People whose stories I have the honor of telling. People like Maria Jose and Justine and Patrick. And I remember that these people don’t choose to live in extreme poverty. Living Below the Line isn’t a simulation or an exercise for them – it’s a daily reality. And while I can spend my week looking forward to a delicious meal on Saturday, they are surviving on limited resources day after day after day. 

These incredible people are the reason I Live Below the Line.

Because I believe that no one should live in extreme poverty. My friends around the world are smart and talented. They are raising beautiful children, working tirelessly to create bright futures for their families and struggling to make tomorrow better than today. And they deserve the chance to work their way out of poverty. They deserve an opportunity. 

So for five days – this Monday through Friday – I willingly eat and drink on less than $1.50 a day so that my amazing friends don’t have to. Through my Live Below the Line fundraiser, I am raising support for Opportunity International – an organization that believes and invests in incredible entrepreneurs around the world. My little challenge has the power to create big, lasting impact by raising awareness and support for an organization that is committed to fighting – and ending – extreme poverty.

Ultimately, this challenge isn’t about me. While I’m excited to broaden my perspective and understanding of extreme poverty, that is simply an added benefit. This challenge is about those who are Living Below the Line every day. It’s about speaking up and making their stories heard. It’s about educating the world about the 1.2 billion people that live on less than $1.50 a day every day. And it’s about raising support so that, little by little, that number continues to decrease.

So I invite you – I challenge you – to Live Below the Line with me.

Spend this week eating and drinking on less than $1.50 a day so that others don’t have to. Talk about your experiences on social media. Raise support for an organization like Opportunity International. Change the world.

Are you in? 

Written by Allison Kooser


Defeat Poverty

Why I'm happy to be hangry this week

By Allison Kooser