Television presenter Natasha Kaplinsky is on day three of the Live Below The Line challenge.
The mother-of-two, who works closely with Save the Children, is surviving on just £1 a day to experience what it’s like to live below the poverty line, and to raise money for anti-poverty projects around the world.
Speaking to ! Online about the week-long test, Natasha reveals how she’s coping, what’s in her shopping basket and how her five-year-old son Arlo has stepped up to the challenge.
What have you been able to buy for £5
I was shocked by how little I could buy. Normally you can buy a coffee and easily drop £3 or £4, but to literally have £5 for five days is really quite tough. On my shopping list I had four carrots, two sweet potatoes, two onions, five bananas, a bag of lentils and a bag of rice and a little bit of oil, stock and salt. It was the rice that really shocked me because I had to work out exact proportions — I could only eat a fifth of the bag each day. It requires a bit more planning and you fill up when you can.
Why did you decide to get involved
I’m doing it for my own experience to understand how difficult it is for people. It’s an educational exercise to see if I can do it. I only have to do the challenge for five days and I get to sleep in a comfortable bed, which is in no way recreating what it’s really like.
Natasha working with Save the Children
Have you met firsthand people who live below the poverty line
With Save the Children, I’ve been able to go to far-flung places and seen how limited the diet is for so many people around the world. Every single day 1.2billion people have to make those choices about what they can eat for a pound or the equivalent. That’s a very real experience for 1.2billion people. What I’m doing is just a challenge but this is their reality. And it’s not just their food they have to cover but also their healthcare, education and transport so my challenge in no way recreates what it’s like to be below the poverty line. It just gives a sense of the choices people have to make.
When I visited Mozambique there was one family who I met and I went shopping with the mother to the local market. She had 50p to spend for a family of five, for a week. The children had never sipped milk, had never eaten a piece of meat or ate fish or eggs because they were just too expensive. She could only go to one or two stalls and buy stodge to fill up her family.
As a mother, I have even more empathy for people who want the best for their children but have nothing to pay for. They have no money to keep their children fed and healthy. They have no money for medication. Having children has definitely made the experience more real.
Natasha and her newborn son Arlo, 2008
How have your family and small children reacted to your challenge
I wanted my children to understand that not everyone is as lucky as them, so I’ve always talked about other children around the world. I told them that I was going to do this week’s challenge where I would eat very different food to them.
In our family we talk about a little boy called Toboko who I met when I was filming a programme for ITV. I make it very real for my children by saying that I’m eating the same food that Toboko can eat, so I can understand how hard it is for his mummy and for him.
My son Arlo, whose five, very sweetly decided that day that he was only going to eat potato and rice for the whole day. I kept saying, “No darling, you really don’t have to do this. You must eat healthily, you’re growing,” but he was insistent. On his own back he’s done it at the age of five. I was really impressed and very proud of him. My eyes filled with tears. He just struggled through his breakfast of potato and rice but he said he really wanted to do it so he could understand Toboko’s lifestyle.
Natasha is on day three of her challenge
It’s day three of the challenge. How are you coping
It’s hard when you’re working late at night and early in the morning. Normally I get really hungry in the mornings and I eat a nice bowl of porridge which sets me up for the day, but now I only eat a banana. I get really low blood pressure and I’m the worst person for snacking. I normally rely on chocolates and biscuits so that’s been quite hard. You have to be really disciplined.
Is there any food you’re really missing
I did a cleanse quite recently which gave me an experience of cutting down. I don’t eat meat, I don’t drink alcohol, I only have one weak coffee a day and maybe one or two cups of tea, so I didn’t have to strip out a lot. It was more the amount that I could buy and eat that was a shock to the system.
Natasha is supporting Live Below the Line, a fundraising initiative which challenges the public to live on just £1 a day for five days. While the official challenge week is currently underway, participants can take on the challenge until 30 June 2014, and all money raised will support the work of 33 charities including Save the Children, Global Poverty Project and UNICEF UK. For more information about Live Below the Line, or to sign up to do the challenge before 30th June, please visit www.livebelowtheline.com/uk.