In many cities, it’s almost too easy to pay $8+ on specialty coffee and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in a blink of an eye—before even starting the work day. Placing the spotlight on these daily, offhand choices is the global Live Below the Line campaign, which challenges participants to eat and drink on $1.50 a day (the extreme poverty line defined by the World Bank). It starts out as a personal test of willpower that raises awareness of the limited choices and opportunities the 1.2 billion people currently living in extreme poverty face; but with every rumble of the stomach comes the potential for lasting change. Participants fundraise toward a specific charity organization tackling extreme poverty in a diverse way, from the basketball courts to the rainforest.
Trying to figure out breakfast, lunch, dinner for under $1.50 sounds completely unfeasible in New York City, but before you balk and give up on the challenge completely, Chef Gabe Kennedy—who is living #BelowTheLine himself this week—shows us it’s easier than we think with three recipes below. Kennedy, who’s cooked in the esteemed kitchens of Eleven Madison Park, Blue Hill at Stone Barnes and even for the Clinton Family, is an ambassador for one of Live Below the Line’s charity partners, Concern Worldwide.
Kennedy recently returned from Haiti, where he gave cooking demonstrations transforming local, affordable ingredients into menu-worthy dishes. For the locals in Port-au-Prince and Saut d’Eau, cooking food can be one way to earn a living and eventually climb out of extreme poverty. The trip was an exercise in creativity, where Kennedy worked with limited resources to create nutritious, satiating and most importantly tasty dishes that clocked in at less than 50 cents a serving—and made for good practice before the challenge this week.
“In my life, I often cook from a place of privilege and that’s not reality,” Kennedy tells CH. “Taking on the Live Below the Line challenge is a great opportunity to take an honest look at food, the food system, people’s access to food and engage others in conversation about how we can make it better. I realized in meeting with people [in Haiti] that poverty is more than just material poverty, it’s about opportunity poverty. Taking the challenge forces you to confront the lack of choice that people living on the poverty line face on a daily basis.”
While the official Live Below the Line week ends tomorrow, the website will stay live until 30 June 2015 (which is when donations will close) for those interested in taking the challenge on their own time.
Some Recipes to Get You Started
Rice Stuffed Squash (serves eight, $0.62 per serving)
1 whole squash or pumpkin
1½ cups of rice
3 cups of water
¼ red onion
1 tablespoon of oil
1½ teaspoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
1 teaspoon of celery salt
Salt and pepper to season
Carefully remove the core and seeds of a squash or pumpkin, while leaving it whole. Season with salt and pepper then bake the squash at 350°F for an hour. Meanwhile, cook the rice. Add rice and water to pot and season with salt. Bring the water to boil, reduce the heat and cover for 20 until rice is tender. When the rice is cooked, add oil, raw diced onion and seasonings and stir until mixed. Remove the squash from the oven and the stuff rice into the squash, packing it full. Let cool slightly, cut and serve.
Slaw (serves two, $0.74 per serving)
¼ head cabbage—shredded
¼ red onion
1 ½ tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shred cabbage, slice onion and apple, and mince the habanero. Season all the ingredients with oil and vinegar. Mix and finish with salt and pepper to taste.
Tortilla Espanol (serves eight, $0.63 per serving)
¼ cup oil
1 large onion
10 large eggs
Salt and pepper
Chop the onion and potatoes into small dices. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the potatoes until golden. Add minced onion and cook until soft. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and whisk until smooth. Pour the eggs into the pan and stir with potatoes. Stir until the eggs start to thicken, season with salt and pepper, then put in oven at 400°F. Cook for about seven minutes until eggs are firm. Remove from the oven, let cool for at least five min, then flip onto a plate and serve.