Thursday, November 6, 2008
The One Dollar Diet Project
Could you live on just $1 a day?
Kerri Leonard and Christopher Greenslate of Encinitas, California fed themselves on just $1 a day for the month of September this year, and chronicled the experience in their blog, One Dollar Diet Project. The New York Times' Tara Parker-Pope wrote of the couple and their eye-opening experiment in an article that came out this week entitled Money is Tight, and Junk Food Beckons. After reading that piece, I was eager to find out more about Kerri and Christopher's month of scarcity, conceived as a means by which to better understand what it's like to live at or near the poverty level on a day to day basis.
I read the blog from beginning to end yesterday, and it was both fascinating and thought-provoking. Through the course of their One Dollar Diet Project, these two social studies teachers ate countless servings of peanut butter, rice, beans and (often just shy of stale) homemade bread, all the while learning firsthand of the emotional and physical impact of subsisting on pennies a day.
On the first evening of the experiment, after running down her day's intake of unadorned oatmeal and tiny bean burritos, Kerri wrote, "It seems odd to me that we have the luxury of doing this as an experiment when there are millions of families who have to budget their meals like this every day." As days turned to weeks, she and Christopher maintained this thoughtful perspective, with only a few instances of weakness, temptation or general hunger-induced grumpiness (Christopher, Day 12: "I'm exhausted. I have a headache. I lost another pound. I wish there was more to report."). Instead of dwelling on their hunger and dwindling energy levels, the couple delved deeper and deeper into feelings of communion and empathy with those around the world living in poverty or just struggling to make ends meet.
This blog has amassed a large group of readers since the beginning of September, and will no doubt continue to attract even more as word spreads of the One Dollar Diet Project. Ultimately, the couple's goal is to raise awareness. As Christopher put it on Day 18: "...the need to have a dialogue about poverty is long overdue."
Kerri and Christopher are now considering what their next experiment might entail. It should also be mentioned that they accepted donations during the project, and ended up making a sizeable contribution to a non-profit in their area. Here's to this smart, thoughful couple! Reading their diary made me think long and hard about the food choices I make every day, and about how fortunate I am to be afforded the luxury of making those choices in the first place. I will not soon forget the lessons that I learned from their sacrifice.