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For one day I practiced eating on less than $1.50, to prepare myself for the Live Below the Line experience. These are my reflections.

Last night I prepared food for my LBL practice day today. Three cups of rice, two eggs and one cup of edamame. Came to about $1.40 and 1400 calories.

I am doing what I can to prepare myself for this experience by being more mindful about hunger and actually willing myself to feel less hungry. I wonder, is that really possible? The food I prepared last night looks like enough, and I'm grateful I have even this much, when so many do not.

It was strange to decide whether to eat my two eggs at breakfast or to have one this morning and the other at dinner. I wonder what would be the most efficient way to do it if I were a farmer with a heavy work load ahead of me today.

I also wonder, if someone came to me having not eaten at all for a few days: would I share what I have? Right now I would, but if (when) I get hungry, will my answer change?

It's difficult to imagine how parents divide up what is available between the adults and the children, when there is not enough for everyone. I have no children at home with me now, so I do this alone. Would we share by number, by proportionate weight? By the contribution of our physical work? 

Am I going to be obsessing over this all day? I have work to get done.

I ate my rice and beans too fast. I must remember to eat mindfully: make sure each bite is fully chewed so it can be best digested and converted most efficiently into nutrition. I recall now that when I am in the "field," I eat far faster than the project participants, and I have more on my plate than they do. Embarrassing.

The rice was good, and so was the egg. I used a little hot sauce (2-3 cents worth) to make it more palatable and tasty... Onward.

Rice and soybeans again for lunch. The gourmet in me is not liking this lack of variety, and this is just my second meal. But this is life for millions: essentially the same food all day, every day, and not even enough. Hot sauce helps... The hot peppers one sees all over the developing world has more meaning for me now.

Heifer President and CEO Pierre Ferrari took a day to practice living below the line.
Heifer President and CEO Pierre Ferrari took a day to practice living below the line.

A cup and a half of rice has filled me up. Does one's stomach shrink quickly?

I was thinking, too, about the texture of food as I tried to eat more mindfully. I am not missing meat today, but one of meat's attractions is its "bite and chew." And flavors. And, importantly for the hungry, the micronutrients packed in animal-based foods (eggs, milk, meat).

Five full days of this will be challenging and will bring some interesting mental and physical surprises, I suspect. 

The amount of overeating in the U.S. is startling. We know this, of course, but it's struck me harder as I make do with so little today.

If you're up to the challenge, sign up to help Heifer raise funds and awareness. 

I read a post today about the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and it – plus this experience of attempting to eat on $1.50 today – reminded me that the daily grind of poverty and hunger, and the loss of all hope, can drive millions into insanity. Hunger truly is a terrible thing.

I got to my dinner, feeling hungry but calm about it. I didn't eat all of the rice I had prepared last night. Too much of the same thing. I guess I'm not hungry enough yet.

I did feel a little light headed and quiet, less energy. Eating felt good.  

The egg was good. Can I do 5 days of this? Yes, I think so. But every day, all my life? Of course. 

But what suffering, and how depressing it is for hundreds of millions who have no choice.

One generally thinks of calories, but I find myself more fixated on a balanced diet, making sure I get enough micronutrients, vitamins etc. Five days does not really stress one's health, but it makes me appreciate how Heifer International educates mothers and fathers on the importance of a complete diet. It can be done even on $1.50 a day. Eggs, milk make that happen. 

I must be hungry. I am planning a large breakfast tomorrow morning. Millions don’t even know if they will have food tomorrow morning. It is all very sobering.

I'm glad I took the time to do a practice day. I feel more prepared for the real challenge.

Next Day
Well, I did not wake up with huge hunger. A normal morning, and I enjoyed my yerba mate and caffeine. 

A few more thoughts on yesterday's practice day:

The reduced and bland food intake are two aspects of this, which are obvious and challenging. Another, which is not captured in this exercise, is the visceral experience that there may be less food than yesterday, or maybe none at all today. I may experience that feeling somewhat in Haiti in as much as I am able to have access to the very cheap food I have committed to eating. I had just a small glimpse of this. It is very disturbing... actually it filled me for just a moment with a lot of anxiety.

Then I opened my fridge.

I am continually convinced we are doing the right work at Heifer International.


Pierre Ferrari

Pierre Ferrari is president and CEO of Heifer International. Pierre is very passionate about empowering the families and communities with whom Heifer works: “It took me decades, but I have come to know that the only way to happiness and joy is to be of service to others.” Pierre’s other joys are his wife, Kim, his two sons and two stepdaughters. In his free time he enjoys golf, squash, reading and travel.