Last week I posted about the simple diet experiment that I am undertaking until mid-June. In brief, the idea is to eat the same meals everyday and to make them as cheap as possible. After posting I got a number of questions about why I was doing this, and I promised to share more. Today I will share my first reason…
Facing Global Inequality
For many, including myself, the reality of global inequality is an entirely mundane fact. The disparity between the rich and the poor is such an ancient and pervasive (universal?) feature of life that we often go for long stretches without it even breaking the surface of our consciousness. Then, every so often, something happens that reminds us that about a billion people on this planet live on $1 a day or less and who struggle just to get enough food to survive. When that happens our lives are suddenly put to the test, and we are forced to confront how we live in light of this information. I think there are many options for how we do this, but I think these five generally cover the spectrum:
We can immediately do everything we can to forget about it and keep on our way.
We can justify our lifestyles by focusing on how hard we work (we deserve what we have and enjoy!) and keep on our way.
We can justify our lifestyles by claiming it’s part of the world, maybe even an evolutionary fact, and keep on our way.
We can lament it but claim our powerlessness to change it, thereby letting ourselves off the hook and keep on our way.
We can lament it and then ask what we can do to prevent another human being, made in God’s image, from suffering and starving to death or watching a family member starve to death.
Now, this blog entry isn’t about solving global poverty or assigning blame. Rather, it is simply about my own struggle to live into option five (I usually camp out at option four). If I believe that other humans are loved by God to the extent that God’s Son died for them, then I should probably be willing to ask what I can do to prevent their preventable suffering.
“The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”
The above words were said by Gandhi, and they stand as a great follow up and challenge to accompany Jesus’ teaching about money provision (see Matthew 6:24-33, for example). There are indeed more than enough resources on the earth for everyone to get enough to eat, yet a person dies of starvation approximately every ten seconds (www.poverty.com). Certainly much of this has to do with political instability and violence and disaster, but that does not acquit the rest of humanity. The UN has reported that food and water could be provided to the poorest of the earth for about $70 billion. (Carol Bellamy, The State of the World’s Children 2001, 81), and if Christians in the US tithed we could offer over $100 billion to this project. (Ronald J Sider. The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, 132). So the truth is that in spite of politics and disaster almost all we could put a pretty big dent in the problem of poverty if we all scaled our lifestyles down a bit and gave away more.
Years ago I began challenging people to give up eating out once a month so that they could give someone in poverty enough food or water to survive. It seemed like a slam dunk to me. Think about it: did you know that you could provide clean water for one person FOR LIFE for $50? (www.teamworldvision.org). So if you were to just give up the $10 a month on one meal you could provide that for someone every five months!
Back then, I did a lot of eating out, but my food bills weren’t too high. Now, with two kids, the tables have turned. I rarely eat out, but every month I have to fight tooth and nail to stay on our food budget. And then it hit me: while I am generally a pretty cheap guy (to my shame I practically subsist on Walmart knock offs- yes I know Walmart is the evil empire) I realized I could give more if I simply gave up a few of the non-essential items I regularly buy. And that got me to wondering, how much do I really need to spend on food to live healthily?
It was that line of thinking that led me to this experiment. I want to see how little money I can (sustainably) spend on food so that I know how much luxury I live with, and how much therefore I could actually give away so that someone else can eat.
In my next post, I’ll tackle my second motivation for the experiment, which will explain why I’m trying to eat the same things everyday, as well as some of the other "rules and caveats" of the diet.