Forget Coffee When You Live Below the Line

This month volunteers from actor Hugh Jackman to unknown college students are willingly experiencing five days of living on a poverty level food budget. The price of a coffee shop espresso drink was used to put in perspective how little most of us understand about living in poverty. The project, recently described in an Australian online news site, is called Live Below the Line. Participants in Australia, the US and UK are going to go five days, May 16-21, eating on a budget of about $1.50 US per day. In the article a college student commented that her daily coffee costs $3.50, while her new food budget is $2 a day. She says she will give up her daily cup for the five days duration. She didn’t say she’d brew at home, only that she’d go without. Her plan on this particular day was to buy rice, lentils and possibly a small amount of oats. The participants aren’t doing this only to better empathize with the poor, but to bring attention to the problem of poverty by publicizing the need and asking for donations. Jackman is working as celebrity spokesperson for the fundraiser in the US and UK, but the college student cited above has already raised at least $2000. Social networks are used to find audiences, and galvanize support. Things have changed. Today’s college student can afford a daily $3.50 cup of coffee. There was a time in the not too distant past that saw the college student as struggling to make ends meet, living on a few dollars a day for food, until the Food Stamp Program became available and many students qualified for that help. Never in their wildest dreams would they have splurged for that cup of coffee, though of course they made their own for a few pennies a cup. If you’d like to participate in the program, go to for more information.

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