ACADEMICS GET A TASTE OF EXTREME POVERTY

A health and nutrition expert is pledging to live on just $2 a day to raise awareness about people living in extreme poverty.

Associate Professor Karen Charlton, from the University of Wollongong School of Medicine, will survive on just $2 a day as she takes on the five day Live Below the Line challenge to raise awareness about the 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty.

The Live Below the Line anti-poverty campaign is run by Oaktree, Australia’s largest aid and development organisation run entirely by volunteers under the age of 26. Last year the campaign raised more than $2 million in funding for development projects in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

Professor Charlton, who teaches public health nutrition at UOW, is encouraging her students to sign up for the challenge.

“This is not only a great way to raise money through sponsorship for a good cause, but also gives students the chance to put into practice what they are learning about the nutritional status of vulnerable groups and how poverty is a major determinant of food insecurity,” Professor Charlton said, who learnt about the campaign from a friend who completed the challenge last year.

“My friend has given me tips on how to survive, but essentially $2 in Australia buys you a basic vegetarian diet of cheap vegetables. Non-vegetarians might be able to find some cheap meat proteins to add to their diet, otherwise you will be looking to non free-range eggs, dried beans and lentils and cheap rice and pasta to fill your stomach.”

Fresh coffee and alcoholic beverages obviously aren’t an option, not even if they are gifts.

 “It would be considered cheating to accept gifts of food. Even home-grown vegetables and herbs need to be costed at market-related value to really feel the true effect of being restricted to just $2 a day.”

As an expert in nutrition, Professor Charlton is all too aware of the consequences of a poor nutritional diet. It is her knowledge combined with her own experiences having lived in Africa for much of her life that have inspired her to join the Live Below the Line challenge.

“I’ve spent most of my life in various African countries, including Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. I have seen firsthand the effects of malnutrition. As a young child I lived through a long drought in Botswana, during which time international food aid was provided to people living in the villages.”

Professor Charlton continues to work on African related projects and is a member of the Australia-Africa Universities Network, an organisation that has a strong focus on projects addressing issues of public health and food security in Africa. Such issues, though, aren’t exclusive to developing countries on the African continent.

“Influences on dietary choices are extremely complex”, Professor Charlton explains, “and it is well established that the cost and affordability of healthy foods is a key barrier to optimum nutrition, even in Australia.”

The Illawarra Healthy Food Basket is an ongoing survey conducted by nutrition researchers at UOW, which monitors the affordability of healthy eating in the region.

For more than a decade, UOW nutritional researchers have conducted the Illawarra Healthy Food Basket survey, costing 57 items that make up the nutritional requirements of a reference family of five. In 2000, 2001 and every two years after that, food is costed at a large supermarket, a greengrocer and a butcher in five suburbs in the Illawarra. From 2000 to 2011 the price increased 71 per cent to $345.

“The impact of recent job losses in the region on access to adequate and healthy foods has not been investigated but is likely to have hit families hard,” Professor Charlton said.

Professor Charlton invites UOW students and staff to join her on this challenge or make a donation.

For University of Wollongong. Read the original article.

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