I am totally fascinated and intrigued by lifestyle projects–you know, when someone radically changes their lifestyle for a set amount of time to make a point about something we might take for granted. I loved Morgan Spurlock’s Super-Size Me and 30 Days. I obsessively read No-Impact Man. Now, Kerri and Chris, two social justice teachers in California, are creating their own month-long experiment: eating for only a dollar a day.
Inspired by exploring ideas about food justice, food choice, consumerism, and waste, the two set on on September 1st to eat on a dollar a day each for the entire month. Honestly, the thought of doing this brings to mind a spartan existence. Could they even do this without a fully-stocked pantry or fully-flourishing garden? But people do it, all over the world. How far could creativity and resourcefulness go? What limitations would they set for themselves? And would they be able to keep to their own guidelines? To me, one of the most difficult challenges would be food in social settings. Going out to dinner, or eating at friends’ houses, or even a day at the office presents food as a treat, a reason to celebrate. Food permeates much of what we do. How would this experiment impact their lives?
Kerri and Christopher set out these rules:
- All food consumed each day must total $1 each.
- They cannot accept free food or “donated” food unless it is available for everyone in our area. (i.e. foraging, samples in stores, dumpster diving)
- Any food they plant, they pay for.
- They will do our best to cook a variety of meals; ramen noodles can only be prepared if there is no other way to stay under one dollar. (They have six packages and will buy no more)
- Should they decide to have guests over for dinner they must eat from their share; meaning they don’t get to eat their own dollar’s worth of food.
Since today is the halfway point of the project, I perused their menus to see not only what they were eating, but how they were feeling. The two are keeping to a vegan diet, which is not surprising, given the relative bank-breaking cost of meat and other animal products. Their breakfasts and lunches seem quite repetitive–oatmeal and PB&J’s, respectively. During dinner, they are able to get a little more creative: bean, rice, and potato burritos, cheese-less pizza, polenta with marinara sauce, and homemade wheat gluten “steak” strips with rice and broccoli all have made appearances. Popcorn or peanut butter are snacks.
Kerri and Christopher have been brutally honest and transparent when it comes to the struggles of the project. They’ve been hungry, and the experiment has impacted their consciousness and how often they think about food. They’ve also had to navigate frustrations with gray areas: can they accept “free” food in social settings? What constitutes “free” food? They’ve lost weight faster than they probably should. But their experiment raises important questions about Americans’ relationship with food, as individuals and as a country. With food in abundance, with so much food going to waste, how are others going hungry, both here and abroad?