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Speaker: The act of not eating doesn't save children

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  • Kumara Republic,

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    It brings to mind the fact that there’s enough food being produced around the world, but that the real problem is uneven distribution. It also gives lie to the Monsantos of this world who claim they’re genetically engineering crops in order to feed the world’s poor, when the real reason is patent trolling and market cornering.

    Farm subsidies are a major factor behind such unevenness, and organisers of campaigns like Live Below the Line would be better off spending their energies on fighting that.

    This protest sculpture from the 2005 WTO round in Hong Kong, “Mad Cow Disease”, by Jens Galschiots says it all.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I thought immediately of this astonishing press release about a Live Below the Line venture.

    However much it might read like dark, Charlie Brookeresque satire ... it's real.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald,

    I've read several comments from people who do actually live at/below the line, permanently. Most of them are actually pretty disgusted by the "poverty tourism" and grandstanding that seems to accompany these awareness raising stunts, especially when it's a celebrity or someone pretty well off staging it.

    Their point is that living like this for a finite period doesn't replicate the stress of actually living a life with minimal income. The people taking on this challenge don't face the challenges of living in a food desert, being at the mercy of landlords who hike rent, constantly hoping that your car/fridge won't die. When you know that everything's going to back to normal next week, you can cope much better with deprivation.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Weight loss was the goal of the girls at my school and I am pretty sure that there were very few of them gave a sweet damn about the poor, hungry kids they were supposed to be helping.

    Bloody hell. I feel so naive reading this. I did the 40 Hour Famine a few times when I was at school (aged 11-14) and it never occurred to me that I could use the not-eating as a weightloss tactic. In fact, my memory of it is being thrilled at all the Just Juice and barley sugars I'd be able to have during the weekend. And then there was the particularly dark 40 Hour Famine of 1987 where I snuck off and had a Creme Egg - cruelly, the Creme Egg selling period always coincided with 40 Hour Famine weekend. But the idea of being slimmer at the end of the weekend? It didn't even cross my mind. On the other hand, helping starving children wasn't a big concern of mine either.

    I like that the 40 Hour Famine now lets people deprive themselves of things other than food - like no internet for 40 hours. That's a lot more sensible.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • JacksonP,

    Great piece Amberleigh.

    During the 40 hour famine this year our twins (11) were under some peer pressure to participate in the ‘famine’, but we decided they could only do the no furniture version of it. It went fine, and they matched others in their fund raising.

    This makes me feel a lot better about our choices. It is a primary goal of ours as parents to do our best to raise three humans who love eating, and love themselves. Negative re-enforcement of dieting culture doesn’t seem the best approach to achieving this. Or to raising awareness of poverty, IMhO.

    like no internet for 40 hours. That's a lot more sensible.

    ETA: We thought so. :-)

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 2448 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Farm subsidies are a major factor behind such unevenness, and organisers of campaigns like Live Below the Line would be better off spending their energies on fighting that

    Yeah well half of them are sanctimonious, self righteous god botherers. Securing their foothold in a non existent world after their well fed lives and deaths is probably uppermost in their diseased minds.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    But the idea of being slimmer at the end of the weekend? It didn't even cross my mind. On the other hand, helping starving children wasn't a big concern of mine either.

    As a kid, I never really got into the 40 Hour Famine because I didn't see how me not eating for forty hours was an incentive for people to give money to hungry children - if it was that important, shouldn't they just be doing it anyway? How did whether I ate or not change that? Also, I found the process of asking for sponsorship terribly awkward - once I'd tapped my parents, there wasn't really anyone else I felt comfortable asking for money. It's really not a very efficient way of fundraising, all things considered.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    It all seems very "self-flagellation" to me. We have sinned by allowing x or y - therefore to absolve our sins we should punish ourselves.

    As you so rightly and bravely point out there are many for whom such behaviour is all too easy and ultimately harmful. Well said.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    When Okarito had quite a few local kids, I was often approached by them to sponsor for the 40hr famine thing.
    I always said: “No, but I have a lawn that needs mowing/ti-tree leaves to be picked
    up and taken to the dump*/the veg garden needs weeding/whatever outside job
    was around…I will pay you $5** an hour for good work & you can donate that money to your cause – or keep it, whatever you choose.”

    Only 3 kids*** took up the offer out of over 25 approaches. They did a good job and I didnt ask what they did with the money…but all 3 wanted some of the money to go to their cause-

    *local vegetation-only dump
    Hey, we’re talking 1970s & 80’s here!
    *One skinny boy took 3 hours to shift and stack – properly- a truck load of firewood off my drive. It would’ve taken me nearly as long…he said proudly, “I’m going to give them $10 and keep the fiver…” He has done exceedingly well
    over the past 20-odd years…and I signed his card, as I signed the other 2, equating the amount given with the amount they wanted paid-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Most people know that the Finnish Post Office has an office that replies to letters sent by children to Father Christmas.

    What is less well known is that the South African Post Office also has a department dedicated to collecting and disposing of parcels of stale leftovers addressed to:
    The Starving Children,
    Africa

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Really? Is there also a PO department which collects packets of crusts sent to children with straight hair?

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2539 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    Heh!
    Nobody EVER said to me – as a child or since- “Eat up your crusts or-” because I’ve always had this wild mop of curls (formerly brown with red highlights, now grey with silver highlights…but still curling on!)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Live Below the Line .,

    Thanks for this blog post. Live Below the Line does not condone, encourage or support behaviour that encourages long term unhealthy eating or consequential eating disorders.

    Live Below the Line does result in most of the participants reducing their food consumption, and as Campaign Manager I acknowledge and accept that people with an eating disorder may utilise our program for means other than it was designed for. Like every social space, the potentiality for uses other than intention are real and often well outside of our control.

    Live Below the Line wants to create space that is as safe as possible for people to participate, which is why the campaign is a structured, 5 day challenge. It is a challenge that uses the concept of living off of much less as a reflective tool to both financially support our partners through fundraising, but also to create conversations about the reality of 1.2 billion people living below the poverty line. We do not condone doing it for longer than the 5 day period. People that have done it for a longer period have done that under medical guidance and not with our direct support.

    Live Below the Line acknowledges your issues with this campaign, but we are we are proud of the difference Live Below the Line makes for the world’s poorest. Indeed as of today over $350,000 has been raised for our partner charities, an amount that has a very tangible difference to communities who have so little.

    As we move into next year we will undertake to consult with organisations that understand eating disorders to get their advice on how we might further ensure that we are both aware and active in minimising the possibility of harm. However we are convinced that Live Below the Line provides an avenue for many everyday Kiwi’s to engage with an issue that is otherwise out of reach.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2013 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Live Below the Line .,

    Live Below the Line does not condone, encourage or support behaviour that encourages long term unhealthy eating or consequential eating disorders

    Which is great to hear and not unexpected. But the real point is whether your campaign results in stimulating eating disorder behaviour ... whether you intend it or not.

    Now the question has been asked it seems reasonable to me that you could do more good by getting some information on whether your participants suffered any harm as a result of this exercise.

    I would argue however that this is an issue that is well within the reach of any kiwi who wants to engage without the need to reduce their calorie intake.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    It is a challenge that uses the concept of living off of much less as a reflective tool to both financially support our partners through fundraising, but also to create conversations about the reality of 1.2 billion people living below the poverty line

    However we are convinced that Live Below the Line provides an avenue for many everyday Kiwi’s to engage with an issue that is otherwise out of reach.

    I'm calling bullshit on that. But dont suppose we'll hear from you again now you've done your press release duty.
    So why are 1.2 billion people living below the poverty line?
    Out of reach? What on earth does that mean?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Live Below the Line .,

    Thanks for this blog post.

    And thanks for coming by and responding in good faith.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    It occurs to me that people with an eating disorder will find excuses not to eat, whether or not there are food-deprivation-based charity events. For example, in the UK at the moment, the "5:2" fasting diet is very popular. It's based on the idea that you fast for two days a week, eat normally for the other five. There is a bit of science behind it, but I'm sure for other people the appeal is it being - wahey! - a socially acceptable excuse not to eat. "No chips for me, thanks - this is one of my fasting days."

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I have reservations about these sorts of projects. Obviously it's a good cause, but I'd prefer people did constructive things to raise money, like Islander says.

    And as someone living on very little, I doubt 5 days of economising on food gives much insight into living in poverty. Anyone can live cheaply for a short time, it's the long term struggle that makes poverty what it is.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    Disclosure: I work alongside people involved in running the campaign in NZ, but have had no part to play in its execution. I’m new there and it precedes me by a few years.

    So, where to start?. It’s a valid argument you make Amberleigh but I think you missed something important here. You ask why we can’t challenge people to go without other things, and you argue that to focus on food to illuminate poverty issues is dangerous and manipulative. The Below the Line campaign is directly focused on food security issues and, as such, is designed to get people thinking and acting on that issue. It’s not about the internet or phone minutes or flash cars; those things are generally irrelevant when you’re literally malnourished and hungry. The money raised goes to nutrition programs.

    I’m not participating myself but my next cubicle-colleague is, and many of the other staff have at one stage or another. We happen to know exactly where the money goes. There are unpaid interns studying development issues giving it all they’ve got to again, literally, raise people’s awareness. This week the staff have made group lunches by combining their meagre rations and have managed to create filling and nutritious meals (I have helped by endeavouring to not bring any caramel slice into the office).

    There seems to be a fair few out there who sneer and scoff and disparage something like this. Well fuck you. The world has many problems and you wouldn’t want your kids living like 1.2 billion odd people have to…every day. You can either be the change or watch the change or ignore the change, your choice. But don’t give grief to individuals or groups who choose the former and make personal sacrifices (cos there’s few tasty salaries in this game) for humanitarian reasons.

    A few posts back the campaign spokesperson stepped up and acknowledged the concerns Amberleigh had raised. He/she also committed to future considerations on the issue. But the reality of unintended consequences surely does not mean that the original intention is skewed or naive or callous or ignorant.

    I’d give my left testicle for world peace and of course the question must go out. Got any better ideas?

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Michael Savidge,

    (I have helped by endeavouring to not bring any caramel slice into the office)

    That’s what I take issue with, right there.

    How can this not seem like tokenism?

    If people want to support charity, good for them, but should they expect praise for it? Isn’t their sacrifice rather trifling?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    I've made a terrible mistake.

    My earnest rant above is completely codswallopy. Kind of. I was defending a different campaign - Eat So They Can - which is also run by my colleagues (told you I was new). However, I've come to realise that the original post was more to do with eating disorders than objectively assessing poverty reduction campaigns - so I spoke out of turn.

    So...ahem...as you were.

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge, in reply to Lilith __,

    (I have helped by endeavouring to not bring any caramel slice into the office)

    That’s what I take issue with, right there.

    How can this not seem like tokenism?

    Admittedly a bit flippant Lilith, but the reality is that a large amount of money will be raised that would otherwise likely not have been - due to the impact of the campaign and the fact that it draws people in and gets them participating. Doesn't every little bit count and, god forbid, it may just be an idealistic means to an end. How much real damage is done in tokenistic behaviour as opposed to the tangible alleviation of immediate suffering in some poor bastard's life half way around the world? It strikes me as highfalutin concern trolling to weigh one up against the other.

    Anyway, I was supposed to be making a shamefaced withdrawal and you made me rant all over the place again.

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Amberleigh Jack, in reply to Live Below the Line .,

    Thanks for the reply.
    Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to suggest that campaigns like Live Below the Line *cause* eating disorders. Much like I don't think it's possible to assign blame to something as complex as eating disorders and I'm pretty sure that if all obviously triggering factors (fad diets, weight loss television shows, deathly thin magazine models etc) were removed, there'd still be eating disorders. Much like alcoholism would exist without St Patty's Day or Tui ads.
    But I do believe that campaigns that encourage people to deprive themselves, even for a short amount of time, and put severe restrictions on what they can and can't eat can be triggering for people who are susceptible to disordered eating.
    Which is why every time I see campaigns like this spring up I get nervous. And can't help but wonder if there's not a way to raise the money without encouraging behaviour that could even raise the question - regardless of whether it does prove dangerous to anybody or not.
    I commend the intention, and the fact that it has been so successful. I just wonder whether it could be just as successful with another method of raising funds.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2012 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Michael Savidge,

    How much real damage is done in tokenistic behaviour as opposed to the tangible alleviation of immediate suffering in some poor bastard’s life half way around the world? It strikes me as highfalutin concern trolling to weigh one up against the other.

    Anyway, I was supposed to be making a shamefaced withdrawal and you made me rant all over the place again.

    I'm perfectly sincere in my questions, and I did say (twice) that giving to charity is a good thing. I'm just saying expecting praise for making a small sacrifice is a bit naff.

    Poor people are just other people. I believe we should all be helping each other, any way we can. And people who can give help should be grateful they have that opportunity.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    Praise is a mighty motivator for some. The fact is they’re doing something, not nothing, for a change and that generally feels good. Some good will come of it. Why is it naff?

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

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