The Stats
If you only have $5 a day to spend on food, all it takes is $3 coffee and suddenly 60% of your daily food budget is spent. The fact is, this is reality for many Australians. In Australia, approximately 2.2 million people live below the poverty line. That’s 11.1%. of us without access to basic necessities like healthy food, dental care, transport, affordable housing and education. The $35 Challenge aims to raise awareness of this fact, along with raising money for a worthy charity – OzHarvest.

The Challenge
The $35 Challenge asks you to experience poverty. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 16-22, you have $5 a day to spend on food. For 1 week, experience what it feels like to eat below the poverty line. By experiencing poverty for just 7 days, we can come to a better understanding of the reality of living in poverty, and raise awareness of an issue so often swept under the rug. And by donating the remainder of the money we would usually spend on food to OzHarvest, we can make a real difference.

Take the pledge!
There are 5 main ways to get involved in The $35 Challenge:
1. Participate in The $35 Challenge.
2. Blog your experiences of The $35 Challenge.
3. Promote The $35 Challenge on your blog/twitter feed.
4. Organise a a ‘Shout Lunch, Fight Hunger’ event in your workplace during anti-poverty week.
5. Donate to The $35 Challenge.

I hope you will join me in the inaugural $35 food challenge, as we do our bit to raise awareness and funds in the fight against poverty.

What to do next:
Follow us on twitter!
Go to our website.

For the first few years I lived out of home, I remember quite clearly my grocery budget – $35 a week. That number is burned into my brain. $35 after rent, bills, a weekly train ticket and whatever uni required that week. And that’s if nothing else came up. When you only have $35 to live on, essentials tend to fall by the wayside. In fact, they have to. This was my experience. I’d have a coffee once a week, and my aunt paid. I only went to bulk-billing doctors in my area, all of whom were overworked and uninspired. I barely exercised, except to rush between the places I needed to go. I didn’t buy shoes. I didn’t go to the dentist for 6 years. Eventually I dropped out of uni and went and worked fulltime in a cafe.

And if you think I was frittering away my money on trivial things, you’re wrong. I never ate in restaurants. Me and my housemate drank two beers a week together, and that’s only because our pub had a thing called ‘free beer Wednesday’, so that cost us all of $3.80 each. My Friday ‘treat’ was a $4.50 toasted sandwich at the uni tuckshop. For my 20th birthday, I treated myself to a new top, $15 at Myer.

What’s crazy is that I didn’t know that I was living in poverty.

I don’t remember those times as miserable, in fact, I remember them as a lot of fun. But when I look back on it now I’m amazed at my resourcefulness, I’m amazed at anyone’s resourcefulness at surviving on so little for so long. I’m also very thankful for the family and friends who kept me from going under- I don’t know where I would be without their help. Many people out there don’t have such support network, I have no idea how they struggle through each day.

This is not a hard luck story, but it is an example of what it’s like to live in poverty. And what’s worse it’s not uncommon. Approximately 2.2 million Australians live in poverty. That’s 11.1% of us without access to basic necessities like healthy food, dental care, transport, affordable housing and education. In a country of relative wealth, in stable economic times, I think we can all agree that is a disgrace.

But this is not about despair, it’s about action. It’s time to act to raise awareness rather than hiding our heads in the sand. That’s what we’re aiming to do with The $35 Challenge; experience poverty, raise awareness and raise money for a worthy charity, Ozharvest, who do so much for Australians in poverty.

I hope you will join us in the inaugural $35 Challenge, as we do our bit to raise awareness and funds in the fight against poverty. Every little bit helps.

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