Young SVP Conferences and groups in schools, colleges and other youth settings across the country were invited to get involved in our inaugural Young SVP Challenge Week from 2-6th March. Over 700 students, teachers and staff members registered to take part and help to raise awareness of what it could be like to live on a low income with very little money left for food.
The Challenge: Individuals were asked to consume no more than €5 worth of food and drink each day for five days. Every single item of food/drink consumed needed to be accounted for, the value calculated and then to make sure it fits into their tight budget. There was no option to accept/eat freebies – absolutely everything consumed was to be incorporated into the daily limit including food given by others, food eaten at social events, food already in the fridge/cupboard, condiments added to meals, cups of tea/coffee right down to the last drop of milk and each grain of sugar...EVERYTHING.
The concept is based on the idea that a person living on a low income has minimal leeway in terms of how they spend the money that they have, and very often the one area they can be forced to make cuts is on their variable costs. In essence, one of these areas is food and groceries.
Could you survive on €5 a day for just five days to cover ALL your food and drink costs?
You are a single person, working full time on minimum wage, which is €357 per week after tax in 2019. You live alone in a rented flat in Dublin and are unable to access housing assistance subsidies.
According to Minimum Essential Budget Standards Research Centre (budgeting. ie), your minimum weekly expenses for essential items in 2019 are as follows*:
JOIN THE SURVIVE ON FIVE CHALLENGE
Personal Care (haircuts, deodorant etc) €12.11
Household Services (bin charges etc) €4.03
Household Energy €30.19
This leaves you with just €5 per day for all your food and drink costs.
The above budget does not even allow for household goods, education, insurance, social inclusion and participation, contingencies or personal costs as can be found on the minimum essential standard of living budget on budgeting.ie.
*These costs are annual costs divided over 52 weeks.
Our Youth Development Team, SVP staff and members across the regions, also took part to help highlight the issues that people on a low income may face when it comes to food choices/lack thereof. Three of the team did a trial run week in advance of ‘challenge week’ and blogs were posted encouraging others to get involved. We all struggled and had low points throughout the five days, and all felt as a five-day challenge, it was hard enough. The thoughts of trying to live with such a limited budget in the longer term would be incredibly stressful and unhealthy, both physically and mentally.
All our 200+ Young SVP groups were invited to take part in the #Surviveon5 challenge. One group of students in a school in West Dublin were offered the opportunity to take part, and the general response to their teacher was that “it would be impossible” which in itself raises awareness of the issue!
To the teachers and groups, we provided some basic information about how the challenge works, what those taking part might expect and we were very clear from the get-go that this challenge would not be easy it would be the complete opposite. We warned people that they would have to go without certain luxuries, that socialising would be difficult, along with the complications of having to think about and calculate the cost of everything you consume … despite all our warnings a courageous 721 individuals registered with us to take part…these brave young people from 37 different schools, colleges and groups across the country committed to giving this challenge a go and to tell us about their experiences as they progressed.
Our challenge participants were asked to tell us, and others, about their experiences of the challenge in several different ways…by writing a diary/blog, by making short videos/vlogs each day, by raising awareness in their own school/communities, and by posting their stories on social media using the #surviveon5. As we continue to gather these stories, learnings and experiences, we will be adding them to our webpage dedicated to this year’s challenge…please do check it out www.svp.ie/surviveon5.
Please check out #surviveon5 and our different accounts…
Instagram @youngsvpofficial / @svp_ireland
Twitter @young_svp / @svp_ireland
Facebook @young_svp / @svp_ireland
… here you will see an assortment of the really interesting and insightful posts from many of our groups.
Huge learning for many taking part in #surviveon5 was that they could not do it. The challenge was never meant as a competition, and it was not designed for a participant to ‘fail’. A large number of our young people and others just could not manage it, simple things like being invited for a coffee with a friend, or wanting to have an extra biscuit with a cuppa before bed was enough to put people beyond their budget.
Participants felt that while it may be possible to ‘survive’ on €5 per day, it was extremely restrictive and limiting. Plenty of people commented on how they felt their diet was unhealthy because they couldn’t afford enough variety within the budget, cooking tasty meals was an issue as every sprinkle of spice/added element built on the basic cost. Also noted as significant, was being able to afford the bigger/more expensive items – a jar of coffee, a bottle of hot sauce, anything that costs more than a couple of €€ was basically out of budget, raising the question how do people manage this in the longer term?
We all accept that we opted into this challenge and that it was difficult even for just five days…for so many others, this is an ongoing reality, and they have no choice. While some of our participants made it to the end of the challenge within the tight budget no one enjoyed it, no one found it easy and everyone agrees no-one should have to #surviveon5.
If you would like to take the challenge yourself / as part of a group, please let us know, you can help us to raise even more awareness of the issue of food poverty and struggling to live on a low and inadequate income.
Email; firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.