In North Carolina, one in four children don’t know where their next meal is coming from. To bring awareness to that issue, students lived off of $1.25 a day for food during an event called “Dine Below the Line.” The event was used to raise funds for organizations trying to combat the issue.
For four days, 169 UNC students lived off of prepackaged meals consisting of less than 800 calories per day. It was organized by the Carolina Microfinance Initiative, a group dedicated to poverty alleviation through small-scale financial services.
A few students expressed concerns. After receiving their food boxes, they thought that the program could be detrimental to people with sensitivities concerning food.
Samantha Croffut, a master’s student in the School of Public Health studying nutrition, participated in the program. Instead of doing the full four days of eating below the poverty line, she did two days of undernutrition and two days of overnutrition.
She experimented with overnutrition because she is training for a half-marathon and wanted to explore the opposite side of the food problem.
She worried how triggering the event could be on a college campus, because of the amount of students with eating disorders, as well as those who experience food insecurity.
“I think for special populations it can be a concern,” Croffut said.
She said the event was so focused on being hungry during the challenge that she was not herself.
“I’ve been really grumpy,” she said. “I haven’t really been wanting to talk to anyone, and I’m usually extremely extroverted.”
Participants expressed concern over the small amount of calories allotted by posting on the Facebook page of the event.
Sophia Al-banna said she was going to participate in the event but decided against it.
“I originally signed up thinking it was a good idea ... I saw the basket (of food provided) and was concerned,” she said.
Al-banna posted on the Facebook page after calculating the calories of the food given. She found it was a little over 800 calories per day.
“I support the idea behind the event, but there’s no way you can live on 800 calories,” she said.
Sophomore Harry Edwards, co-chairman of the Carolina Microfinance Initiative, said the group started planning the event in October.
He said the meals distributed were similar to the international Live Below the Line organization’s guidelines.
“We’ve made it very clear that it is not obligatory,” Edwards said. “There is a disclaimer saying health is more important.”
He said he was pleased none of the participants reported health problems during the event.