I lived on $2 a day and here is what happened

Eating on only $2 a day is even worse than it sounds.


by Elsa Feigenbaum, Copy Editor of Sports

As of 2011 there were 1.5 million households in America living on less than $2 a day per person. For two days, I decided to try it out myself.

Waking up that Monday morning at the prime hour of 7 a.m., I faced with the day with confidence. I waltzed out of the house, proud of myself for saving my precious cents instead of drinking my usual cup of coffee. An hour later, my confidence had not faded, and I wondered if this project would actually be that hard.

By the time 9 a.m. rolled around, I started to feel the effects of skipping that coffee as the caffeine headaches set in. When 11 a.m. finally arrived, this growing teenage girl was more than happy to dig into her lunch, a cup of rice and beans, only slightly fazed as my friends ate to their delight around me. I returned back to the foolish confidence and the belief that this project would easily be accomplished.

Half an hour later, I come to terms with how incorrect this previous mindset was. By 4 p.m., hunger was the only thing on my mind as I sat at track practice wondering how I was supposed to make it until dinner. Another ration of rice and beans later and I went to sleep, ready to start again the next day.

Waking up that Tuesday morning I could barely get myself out of bed. Time flowed by slower and I struggled to pay attention to class, my only focus was food. Lunch finally arrived and I dug into my cup of noodles with a little bit of tomato sauce, making sure to get every morsel. For the first time I recognized just how much food everyone throws away, and I was horrified. By track practice I was in a daze, worried the physical activity would cause me to pass out. After counting the seconds till dinner, I scarfed down the night’s rice and beans, going to bed still hungry.

In 2011, during any given month, there were 1.5 million families and 3 million children living $2 per person per day. Throughout this process I knew that I could cave, that if I truly needed it there was a meal at home with my name on it. This is not a luxury these impoverished Americans share, a constant state instead of a two-day school project.

This level of extreme poverty has only increased over the past 10 years. In 1996, 1.7% of American households with children were living on under $2 per person per day. As of 2011, this had increased to 4%, resulting in 1 in every 25 families living under $2 per person per day.

I was absolutely miserable going to bed hungry for a couple nights. I can barely understand how someone can live this way each day. How someone can spend their life this hungry and this tired, how someone can participate in society living in these conditions. This inability to participate is only grows as time passes. Wealth is largely generational, families passing down their assets to the future generation. Since these members of extreme poverty have little to pass onto their children, the next generation is left with little to no wealth to build on, only furthering the cycle of extreme poverty.

The fact of the matter is this is not a situation that should have to be imagined, and that no one deserves to live in this state of poverty. So what difference can you, a seemingly unpowerful high school student, make?

Change starts when we first step back and challenge the our prejudices and biases against those in poverty. We have to recognize that these are victims, not just some statistic filled with people who are too lazy to change their position in life. Then, challenge your friends and family to achieve this understanding too. Because under the right mindset, the possibilities to achieve change are endless.