Live Below the Line Day 2: Beyond the Challenge- getting involved in your community

Day 2 of the challenge and writer Laura Sesana and her husband continue to survive on $1.50 a day

WASHINGTON, MAY 9, 2012 – The challenge to live at the international poverty level is not easy.  We have made it through day one and we are on to the second day of this five day challenge to Live Below the Line

On the menu

In order to save food, my husband and I have decided to either skip breakfast or lunch.  I usually skip breakfast anyway, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem.  What has surprised me is how much I have been thinking of food these past two days.  I feel like I am hungry all the time.  And I crave all kinds of things. 

So I had breakfast: one slice of toasted white bread and one American “sandwich slice” – they can’t even call it cheese?- for a total of $.11.  For lunch I had some rice and lentils left over from last night ($.16). 

My husband had an egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast ($.26) and toasted bread and “sandwich slice” for lunch ($.11).  For dinner we made fried rice with the meat from the chicken leg we grilled yesterday, the leftover rice, a cup of frozen veggies, and two eggs for around $.70 each.  I had to cheat and spray my wok with some Pam.   

I have been looking at the blogs of other people who have taken the challenge.  One guy in Texas was able to pool with his sister and wife and they not only got bananas, but tomatoes as well!  The bananas in Texas were $.49/lb.  In the DC area bananas are $.32 each.  I guess we could have afforded two or three bananas…  Now I’m even starting to question our spending choices. 

I am also starting to worry we may not have enough food to last us through the week.  And unlike others living on $1.50 a day, I don’t have to worry about rent or health care or clean tap water!

Beyond the challenge

In an effort not to be completely self-indulgent, I began researching food prices and poverty in general in DC.  What I found was alarming.  Yes, I had always heard that the economic gap in DC was appalling; yes, I have heard that many kids in DC only get food at school.  However, I had never really stopped to consider the statistics and the story behind the numbers.

Figures differ, but the poverty rate in DC is between 19.2 and 19.9%.  That is over 105,000 people living in poverty in the District right now.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 DC ranked fourth in the nation among states with the highest rate of individuals living below the poverty level after Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kentucky.  Almost one in five DC residents lives with less than $25 a day for all of their expenses. 

So one in five people in DC are basically doing what I am doing this week- with the one big difference: I can stop anytime and have a burger and fries.  And I live in NorthWest DC, and I have a car and a bicycle, and I have a job, and, and… 

What YOU can do

This made me realize that there is something that we can all do in our own neighborhoods, because poverty isn’t only in some remote African or South American country, it is right here in our backyards. 

There are several ways people can help and get involved in their own communities.   My uncle, also a Communities contributor, recently wrote a great piece on volunteering in a soup kitchen.  However, if you feel that you cannot give a full afternoon or you have no soup kitchens close to home or work, there are several other ways that you can contribute to fight poverty in your area: 

  • Volunteer.  There is nothing more rewarding and fun than volunteering.  There are several websites that alert you of volunteer opportunities in your area including Volunteer Match, Idealist, and Charity Choices.
  • Donate. 
    • Money.  Monetary donations are invaluable to most organizations fighting hunger.  You can donate to empower women through the Women4Women portal of the WFP website or help fight global hunger through UNICEF.  An organization very close to my heart is the Tutu Project.
    • Food.  Local food banks accept almost any kind of canned and dry goods.  The Capital Area Food Bank has locations in North East DC and Lorton, VA.  Feeding America has a list of local food banks by area as well as volunteer opportunities.
    •  Support local small businesses.  Small, locally owned businesses keep money in the community and hold communities together.  Shopping at your local mom and pop stores ultimately helps fight poverty in your area. 
    • Shop with a conscience.  Where you shop and what you buy matters.  Check out to see how what you buy can make a difference.
    • Educate yourself.  There are a number of great resources that have information on poverty globally, nationally, and locally.  In the global context, a good place to begin is Economic, social, and cultural human rights. has a comprehensive page on Key readings on U.S. Poverty.   The World Food Program website is also a good resource.
    • Sign a petition online or join a Campaign.  There are several campaigns to end poverty.  Live Below the Line, which I am currently supporting, is not the only one.  EndPoverty2015 and are just two others.  If you are a college student, you can join  There are several locally based campaigns like Defeat Poverty DC, Maryland Hunger Solutions, and the Virginia Community Action Partnership.
    • Play online to feed people. is a free online game that donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for each question answered.  It contains subjects from art to literature to SAT prep.  Test your hunger IQ at the WFP website donates a warm meal to a hungry child for every person who finishes the short quiz.  The hunger site just requires one click once a day to feed a hungry person.
    • Organize a fundraiser, concert, or food drive.  Many studies show that knowing and interacting with your neighbors can make you a happier, more fulfilled person.  What better way to get to know the people that live near you than by organizing a community event to help fight hunger? There are a number of websites  that explain organizing a fundraising event step by step.

There are other great causes and organizations- please include your favorite activity, cause, or organization that combats poverty in your area in the comments section below.

And a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to my donors!  We have raised $380 for UNICEF and are on our way to our $1,000 goal.  Please help us reach it!

Support Laura and her brave husband in their quest to raise $1,000 for UNICEF as they take the Live Below the Line Challenge. Visit to make a donation. 

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Laura Sesana

Laura Sesana is a writer and DC, Maryland attorney, joining the Communities in 2012.  She is the author of Colombia: Natural Parks, and has also written several articles on literary criticism.  She writes about food, health, nutrition, women’s legal issues, and the environment.  

In addition to writing for the Communities, Laura also works as an attorney and legal content writer.


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