Live Below the Line blog | 7 Reasons to Join the Challenge

Here we go again!

In less than a month, I will be participating in the Live Below the Line challenge with YCI for the second year. Contrary to what some people may think, I’ve been looking forward to living on $1.75/day for 5 days. Why you may ask?

Here are my top 7 reasons to join the challenge!

  1. Raise awareness about global poverty. There are 1.2 billion people who have no choice but to live below the line every day – for everything – food, medical care, transport, education, everything. Each year 3.1 million children die before their fifth birthday because of poor nutrition. That is reason enough. photo 3
  1. Support a great cause. At Youth Challenge International, we work hard every day to improve the lives of those affected by poverty. Our programs address global youth employment challenges by providing livelihood and employability training to youth and supporting small business development – the most sustainable way to end poverty.

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    Working away!


  1. Get creative with your cooking. Enjoy making new meals from your Live Below the Line food! For five days you will need to find resourceful ways of using the limited food items that you have. Get inspired and have fun with it!

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    A colourful lunch for less than $1.75

  1. Explore low-cost food options in your neighbourhood. Kensington market in Chinatown and Bulk Barn were my main stops for my shopping in Toronto. You will be surprised with what you can get for $8.75. One onion, a carrot, two bananas, one sweet potato, a can of tomatoes, rice, pasta, lentils, five bags of tea, lemonade juice powder, pretzels, and more!
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$8.75 worth of food

  1. Save money. An added bonus to the challenge, especially for those students, recent graduates, and cost-conscious individuals. Coffee, dinners, drinks, and more can really add up quickly! Take your hard earned cash and save it up for something you 5
  1. Do it with a team. The Live Below the Line challenge is a great team-building activity. Join a team or create your own with friends, family, your sports team, or colleagues. Host a potluck and share your meals as a team. photo 6
  1. It’s fun! This challenge is a great way for all of us to become a part of the movement to end extreme poverty through an experiential fundraising and awareness initiative. Create a team, get creative, and explore your city all while taking action in the fight against poverty.


– Amanda Armstrong, YCI Volunteer Program Coordinator

Join YCI to Live Below the Line, sign up here

“An Exercise In Empathy and a Chance to Encourage Thoughtful Discussion”

Live Below the Lines Campaign Manager Erin Deviney interviews YCI Alum Shanna Sunley.

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Many of you who signed up for the Live Below the Line challenge on behalf of Youth Challenge International (YCI) already have a personal connection with the organization, just as Shanna Sunley does. I had the opportunity to catch up with Shanna as a Live Below the Line participant and YCI volunteer to find out why she had volunteered with YCI, why she had taken on the LBL Challenge and most importantly her thoughts on both of these actions.

Shanna went to Tanzania as a YCI Youth Ambassador earlier this year to facilitate project management and to provide leadership training to local youth in Zanzibar. Along with other Youth Ambassadors, Shanna was taught how to carry out a community health needs assessment in the local area, and later presented the findings to key stakeholders to inform future project planning. In addition, the YCI volunteers used their training to organize and host a local International Women’s Day event.

It is thrilling to know that individuals such as Shanna are dedicating their time to improving the wellbeing of communities. However, I was a pleasantly surprised to learn of her decision to make another personal commitment towards the eradication of extreme poverty after having returned from Tanzania. On this topic Shanna said,

I think it (LBL) is an opportunity to be a global citizen. It stimulates reflection about the huge inequities that exist in our world, and takes a massive international issue down to the personal level. It is an exercise in empathy and a chance to encourage thoughtful discussion.”

Shanna’s efforts in the Live Below the Line campaign have had a significant impact on many levels – from raising awareness of global youth development to raising awareness of the issue of extreme poverty. Shanna has successfully raised over $300 to support the work of YCI, an organization that she knows to be effective and sustainable. In fact, in knowing that there are over 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world, YCI is unique in that they believe in, and embrace, the power of young people to contribute to their own development.

Also, every conversation that Shanna has had with friends and colleagues about LBL has raised further awareness about the issue of extreme poverty. Yet this challenge is very personal to Shanna having had come back from Tanzania recently. The Live Below the Line experience gave her further insight into the everyday realities of her host family and community members in Tanzania.

As Live Below the Line‘s Campaign Manager, I am continually inspired by Shanna and the hundreds of other Canadians who dared to partake in the Live Below the Line challenge. If you haven’t had the opportunity to embark on this unique challenge or to fundraise, you can still participate until June 30th.

That’s less than 2 weeks away. So, join Live Below the Line before it’s too late. Your efforts will raise awareness of extreme poverty and help support the critical work that Youth Challenge International is doing to end it.


Ali Jenkins: Reflections of a Solo Live Below the Liner

Ali's purchases for the week. Are those Ju Jubes I see there?

Ali’s purchases for the week. Are those Ju Jubes I see there?

1. You live with your family and you’re the only family member who participated in this challenge. Did you find this context particularly challenging for yourself or was your family accommodating of how you were living below the line?

My family was really supportive. My mom and sister made sure to have their dinner before I got home. Also, they sometimes helped me prepare my Live Below the Line meals.

In terms of fundraising, my immediate and extended family and friends were incredibly generous in donating to YCI on my personal donor page, which helped me raise over $300. However, I had to do some work for this sum to grow. First, I emailed my personal network to inform them of how I was taking on the Live Below the Line challenge. Included in this message was a little blurp about how I would keep everyone updated on my 5 day experience via twitter and email. Second, I routinely checked my donation page to see who was donating to me and made sure to give them a “Thank you” call soon after.

2. What are some pros and cons of doing the Live Below the Line challenge by yourself?

There were two main benefit to doing the challenge on my own. One was that I didn’t have to think about someone else’s needs by sharing and dividing the food. I am almost certain that had I done this challenge with my younger sister, I would have given her more food. Also, it was much easier to think of only my food preferences while grocery shopping and cooking. In terms of set-backs or challenges to being a solo live below the liner, I definitely think that my limited budget of $8.75/per 5 days didn’t get me a great deal of variety in what I could purchase since I couldn’t pool my money together with another participant.

3.What would you say to someone to encourage them to participate in Live Below the Line?

I was easier than I had anticipated. It’s a do-able challenge that most individuals could take on. It simply requires re-thinking the way you’re eating and you can still get your 3 meals a day with sometimes even a mid-day snack!

4.Considering there is still time to participate in Live Below the Line (Sign up before June 30th), what advice would you offer to interested participants?

My first piece of advice would be to be prepared for the first day, since it’s the hardest day. However, as the days go on, the challenge becomes much more tolerable. Also, be resourceful with what you purchase and buy something small to treat yourself with!

Diana Chiodo: Live Below the Line Participant Reflects on Living on $17.50

Diana Chiodo: It’s A Party for Two

What Diana and her boyfriend bought. The making of a good week.

What Diana and her boyfriend bought. The making of a good week.

1. You’re doing the Live Below the Line challenge with your boyfriend. What are the pros and cons of doing this challenge with one other person?

Well, there were a few benefits. One, we had greater purchasing power with our pooled budget of $17.50. Second, I didn’t have to eat the same three meals everyday. Third, doing this challenge with my boyfriend made it more of a social activity as we cooked our meals together. Fourth, my boyfriend and I kept each other accountable. Just knowing that we would be occasionally checking up on one another, ensured that neither of us wavered.

In terms of any challenges with doing Live Below the Line with someone else, it was sometimes difficult to divide the food 50/50. For instance, once my boyfriend suggested that he could have the half bag of pasta, and although I was tired of eating it, I didn’t really want to give it up. Also, it can be difficult to cater towards two peoples food preferences. As much as my boyfriend loves salt and pepper in his cooked meals, I am not too fond of it.

2.What would you say to someone to encourage them to participate in Live Below the Line?

First, I’d like to say that the challenge is worth the cause. Live Below the Line can get you to reflect on the power of choice. While grocery shopping, I caught myself reflecting on how certain foods I wanted to buy were unattainable because they exceeded my budget and I questioned myself as to why. Later, my reflections went deeper. I thought about how those living in extreme poverty don’t have a safety net if they are faced with a set-back, such as food getting spoiled or becoming ill. I myself was not prepared for any set-backs and thought about how much more difficult it would be to live in extreme poverty when life throws curve-balls your way. So, that being said, Live Below the Line is a great way to educate yourself, which is why I encourage others to participate.

3.Considering there is still time to participate in Live Below the Line (Sign up before June 30th), what advice would you offer to interested participants?

Just do it! Get at least one other person to do this challenge with you and do your research by going to the grocery store beforehand to really learn what you can purchase for $8.75. 

It’s not too late to participate. Live Below the Line will be running until June 30th. Sign up HERE and Donate HERE!

Fundraising 101 While Living Below the Line

Facts about poverty originally posted on Canada Without Poverty  & Canadian Women’s Foundation.

What I will be eating for the day. Pardon the photoshoped banana's. Ran out just before taking this photo

What I will be eating for the day. Pardon the photoshoped banana’s. Ran out just before taking this photo

It’s day 2 of the Live Below the Line challenge and I have to say that day 1 went pretty well. The one banana for breakfast has been filling and my two boiled eggs for lunch were really filling too, However later in the afternoon, I got a sugar craving and just had to indulge. And indulge I did, in a single sugar cube. Then for dinner I had three small potatoes with lemon water. The time after dinner leading up to bedtime was quite the challenge, as it should be. Extreme poverty is a harsh reality and with this Live Below the Line challenge we’re only getting a taste of it.

Another thing I noticed yesterday was how I explained the Live Below the Line challenge to a friend. I did a good job of conveying the actual challenge itself, but didn’t really sell the fundraising aspect. Whether you’re raising funds to run in a marathon or soliciting donations door-to-door, often individuals can be reluctant to bring up the word “fundraising”. So, here are some fundraising tips, so you can really reel in the dough for this worthy cause!

TIP #1: Drink Lemon Water: Researcher’s have found that the aroma of lemon actually boosts feel-good hormones. So, happiness is the first ingredient to a successful fundraising pitch! It’s simple, if you’re not happily conveying the purpose of the Live Below the Line challenge, then how can you expect others to take interest in the cause and donate to you? Remember, we’re promoting awareness, not misery.

TIP #2: Host Fun Events:  Whether it’s gathering all of your guests to watch a raptors game, or a movie, or hosting a BBQ or picnic, be sure to pick something that appeals to the interests of your family and friends! Or you could even host a potluck with a taste-off. What exactly is a taste-off, you might ask?  Well, you basically divide your guests into two groups and reward the group with the most tasty Live Below the Line dish. The runner-up team would then have to make a larger donation to the host. So, keep it simple, fun, and give yourself a pat on the back for raising awareness!

TIP #3: Share Interesting Facts: Yes, some facts can put you to sleep, but do your research and pick the most captivating ones, such as the ones below:

  • Once the full impact of the global economic crisis is calculated, it is estimated that as many as 4.8 million Canadians will be poor. If you gathered this many people in one place—men, women and children—you would create a city twice the size of Toronto.
  • A McMaster University study (2010) finds a 21-year difference in life expectancy between the poorest neighbourhood and the wealthiest neighbourhood in Hamilton, Ontario.
  • In 2012, a record 882,000 Canadians used food banks each month, the highest level of food bank usage EVER!
  • Some groups [in Canada] have disconcertingly high rates of poverty: In Manitoba, almost 70% of Aboriginal children under the age of six are poor.

TIP #4: Use Scenarios to Generate Sympathy: Use simple scenarios to really paint a picture of the type of choices people living in extreme poverty have to face. For instance, you could mention how “around $1.75 can provide a family with two basic meals containing rice and some vegetables. After that, little is left to cover expenses, including transport, medical expenses clothing, etc. Now, put yourself in their shoes. Someone in your family falls ill. Now, all you have is $1.75. You have a tough choice between your ill family member going hungry or hoping that they will just get better by themselves.”

That is all for now. We really hope that you take these fundraising tips into consideration while living below the line with YCI. But, if haven’t signed up already, sign up HERE and donate HERE.

Happy Fundraising!

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

Diana Chiodo is YCI’s Public Engagement Intern and a Live Below the Line participant. Read her reflections about her first day Living Below the Line. 

Food for the day: A banana for breakfast, rice and lentils with cilantro for lunch and dinner. Water and a splash of lemon juice to drink.

5 days of food for 2 people living below the line

5 days of food for 2 people living below the line

It’s day 1 of the Live Below the Line challenge and it’s been an okay start to the day – I managed to burn some of the rice I had cooked, so duly noted to myself to be more vigilant. My boyfriend agreed to take on this challenge with me and has been proactive about spreading the word. I have also received lots of curiosity from family and friends, but conversation typically leads to what I’m going to eat for the day. I understand people are intrigued by the challenge and generally understand the cause, but it often escapes people to grasp that over 1.4 billion people are right now living below the extreme poverty line! My ability to take on this challenge is possible because it is only focused on food and drink. For people living in extreme poverty, they lack the ability to fulfill their basic needs, whether it means eating only one bowl of rice a day or forgoing health care when it’s needed. For them, $1.75 a day doesn’t just cover food, it’s actually meant to cover everything- from housing, health, food, transport, to education. Sadly, this is the reality for a staggering number of people.

However, I’m confident that the Live Below the Line challenge will generate greater awareness among people about this issue. Speaking for myself, while preparing for this challenge, I took a step back from the fact that I could flip through grocery flyers, price match policies and have access to an insane amount of food, which is far from the reality plaguing over 1.4 billion people. Reflecting on this state of disparity is not meant to foster pity, but rather create compassion and empathy leading to action.

 So, Why Am I Doing This Challenge in the First Place?

As a student graduating from Ryerson’s Food Security studies program with a background in political science, it aggravates me to realize the inequities we have in society, particularly within our food systems and the amount of waste that is created each day. Since embarking on this challenge, I’ve been reminded of the delayed rain season that plagued East Africa, damaging crops and draining resources. I’ve also been reminded of the women I met in Kenya who lugged barrels of firewood and water on their backs to then walk a few kilometers home. What this all means is that in addition to the state of extreme poverty, living conditions can increase the difficulties in obtaining food. Want to learn more about Food systems and Global Food issues? Check out this interactive Food Issues Map by FairFood International.

Last Thoughts

Some wise words were once spoken to a comic book superhero, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’. Speaking of responsibility, my responsibility is to educate others and generate awareness about the magnitude of living in extreme poverty. It’s important to remember that everyone in his or her own way has the ability to affect change. Through this campaign, I have the ability to generate awareness of Youth Challenge Internationals work which addresses the root causes of poverty, meanwhile increasing potential in young people and educating future generations.

So, I’d say Live Below the Line is a worthy challenge to take on. It’ll give you an insight into poverty meanwhile raising funds for an equally worthy organization like Youth Challenge International.

Sign up to participate and stay tuned for my second blog!


A Question for Live Below the Liners: “What’s Cheap, Vegan and Ridiculously High in Calories?”

This blog was originally posted on May 25, 2013 on Sarah-Leanne Deslippe, an enthusiastic YCI Alum is taking on the Live Below the Line Challenge with YCI. Read her engaging blog below.

As you may have guessed based on the subject heading for this blog, I’m about to join activists across the country by living below the line to better appreciate the constraints of global poverty. As I begin this challenge, I’m hoping a few of you can dig up meal suggestions from your days as a broke and under-employed college student and write them in the comments section below, but just so we’re clear, I actually am vegetarian. So, chunks of hot dog over a platter of Kraft Dinner won’t quite fit the bill. Yet, the irony of this isn’t my vegetarianism so much as the fact that I’m trying this after a brief period of what was probably the healthiest eating of my life. I’m sure any Second Cup employee in the province could tell you about my love of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. And raspberry white chocolate scones. And chocolate banana bread. And pumpkin gingerbread. Okay, you get the point.

All this is to say I might have a bit of a sweet tooth and struck out hard when I reviewed my eating habits with a registered nutritionist. In order to curb my sugar cravings I decided to  go ‘cold-turkey’ by cutting out refined sugars and replacing them with a variety of healthy alternatives. Other than a slight blip, I’ve been doing surprisingly well. The area Second Cup-pers even stopped offering me cookies when I place my orders, although they still ask how the diet is going.

When I first heard about the Live Below the Line campaign I decided against it without even really considering it. After all, I already do lots of volunteer work pertaining to global social justice. Furthermore, I’m fairly athletic and need a substantial meal to fuel my work outs, Finally, I figured I wouldn’t be able to maintain my new, healthy, naturalpathic, vegetarian diet on a mere $1.75 a day. However, as a YCI alum, I receive newsletters, and saw that YCI was recruiting a team to go below the line. I was about to delete the email before my inner-monologue reminded me of what should have been obvious from the beginning:

“It’s supposed to be hard.”

There are many good reasons for deciding not to participate in a campaign and I’m certainly not judging anyone who is not interested in participating in this challenge. All I’m saying is that my original reason for not doing this was because it would be inconvenient for me. At the risk of making a terribly insensitive understatement, global poverty is inconvenient. I’m sure there are thousands of people around the world who would love to enjoy a healthy, naturopathist-approved meal on a regular basis, but these options aren’t available to them. This experience is supposed to offer me an insight in to the grueling effects of poverty, so how can I possibly begin to understand this issue if the experience isn’t a little grueling?

As such, I’ve decided to sign up for the YCI Live Below the Line campaign beginning June 3rd. I doubt my naturopathist will approve but frankly I wasn’t planning on telling her (here’s hoping she’s not much of a blogger). I’m still not sure what nutritionally-balanced meals I’ll be able to pull off on a vegetarian diet, but I suspect there will be lots and lots of lentils.

Wish me luck!!

-Sarah-Leanne Deslippe

Feeling inspired by Sarah?- Sign up and join this challenge along with the YCI team! And don’t forget, support Sarah by DONATING to her. She’s only asking for a mere $5 donation!