Reporter feeling effects of a $1.75-a-day poverty diet

By Gilbert Ngabo

There are those daily routines in life that you seldom expect to change.

Like the 30 or so pushups I do every morning before taking a shower. I’ve been doing that for so long that I don’t even think about it. But since taking on the Live Below the Line challenge this week, I’ve started to feel my body letting me down.

It started Tuesday evening on my way home from work. As I sat on the train, I started reading an ESPN column that I had downloaded earlier about the NBA playoffs. That’s what I do every day on my commute. But this time, I kept falling asleep before finishing two paragraphs. After many failed attempts, I pulled a book out of my bag, thinking my eyes were just tired of looking at screens. But I couldn’t finish a page before dozing off.

It’s not as if I was overly tired from work. Instead, it’s a testament to the physical, emotional and mental toll that not eating enough can take on you.

I had lunched on a meagre meal of bean soup and a piece of pita bread, the same thing I planned to eat for dinner. The previous night, I had woken up on multiple occasions, checking the time and realizing I was still hours from starting my morning routine. And a sense of emptiness in my whole body kept reminding me that I was hungry. When it was finally time to get out of bed, I felt so weak I didn’t even try for a few pushups.

Nutritionist Theresa Albert was shocked when I told her what I’ve been eating.

“Very poor diet,” she said, advising that I need regular nourishment and more varied foods, as well as enough calories.

Studies show that men aged 19 to 30 should consume at least 2,400 calories a day to maintain a healthy body. With $1.75 as a daily food budget, I’m not even getting half of that.

If I continued on this diet for an extended period of time, some critical processes in my body would start to shut down, such as my brain and immune system, Albert told me.

It made me think of all the kids from poor families, going to school with half-empty stomachs. If I can’t concentrate on reading a piece of news after only two days on this challenge, how are they going to sit in a class all day and follow their teachers?

The World Food Program estimates that more than three million children around the world die each year as a result of poor nutrition, and that more than 800 million people are going hungry. The hunger I’m feeling during this challenge serves as a reminder to appreciate life the way I know it.



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