Upper schoolers in English teacher Dr. Christine Marshall’s class embarked on a recent experiment to see what it’s like to survive on less than $2 a day, a measure frequently evoked to describe the global poverty line.
The experiment was inspired by reading the book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. “Students in the two sections of Global Women's Voices decided to see if we could manage, for three days, to keep our food costs to under $2 a day,” said Marshall.
Marshall provided a list of inexpensive grocery items and sample menus, and then students began planning. They wrote or recorded videos of themselves discussing the experience of shopping and trying to get through the days on that allowance.
What could that amount buy? One sample student menu showed that a day could include two scrambled eggs and one piece of toast for breakfast; a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich and carrot for lunch; a tortilla, canned beans, and cooked cabbage for dinner; and one apple for a snack. Over the three days, that student’s menu added up to $5.98 when the individual portions were added up.
In the end, students pooled money collected during the experiment and used it to buy a cow for a family in need from the Heifer Fund. “The idea of the Heifer Fund is that by supplying families with live animals rather than strictly giving money, you are helping to supply earning potential,” said Marshall. “As the website says, ‘Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs, and more.’”
The experience made a deep impact on both the students and Marshall herself. “It meant so much to me to be able to challenge the students (and myself) in this particular way,” she said.
Read more about the Social Responsibility Program here.