LIVING below the line is more than MasterChef reunions and budget dining for penniless students. Last week’s epic celebrity cook-off was just a small part of an ongoing battle against poverty. Reporter Grace Yew and videographer Julian Tay covered the event.
Living on two dollars a day seems impossible in cities as expensive as Melbourne. However, Live Below the Line’s Celebrity Cook-off has proved that $10 can buy you meals for a whole week.
Last Friday’s free cook-off was the latest publicity effort for Live Below the Line, an anti-poverty campaign run by the youth volunteers at Oaktree Foundation. Campaign participants feed themselves on two dollars a day – the equivalent of the global poverty line – for five consecutive days.
Campaign director Daniel Lewis-Toakley said Live Below the Line was started to help people “gain a small window into the daily lives of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty”.
“In the process of understanding these issues, people can help us raise funds for education projects and skills training in places like Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor,” he said.
This simple but powerful premise has caught the attention of several grassroots establishments, all of which were in attendance at the Birrarung Marr cook-off.
While the contestants set up their stoves, White Guy Cooks Thai served two-dollar vegan curry to an increasingly hungry crowd. Representatives from Taco Truck and Heart of Chocolate were also present, with the latter exchanging fair trade chocolates for two dollars as well.
At 1pm, under the watchful eyes of five judges and celebrity emcee James Mason (Neighbours), six former MasterChef contestants rose to the challenge of cooking five days’ worth of food in an hour.
The contestants were divided into three teams with a budget of $10 each, which they spent on affordable staples such as rice, baked beans and canned fruit.
Keen Poon and Tregan Spiteri snagged the award with a mouthwatering menu of salads, stir-fries and meatballs. The two cooks cemented their win with a large pot of herbed tuna pasta.
There was no trace of leftover rivalry from the contestants’ reality TV days: instead, the teams bonded over a shared sense of charity and frugality.
“If you plan your meals for the week, you can definitely stretch your dollars,” runner-up and longtime Oaktree supporter Alice Zaslavsky said.
“It’s ultimately about being prepared and more economical.”
Together, Alice and teammate Beau Cook whipped up six innovative dishes, including a plate of fried rice Alice described as containing “various innards.”
The duo’s best offerings, however, came out of a can. Alice and Beau used tinned baked beans as a base for both pizza sauce and an inventive, chilli-tinged bread dip.
Such culinary improvisation is completely viable even if you can’t cook at MasterChef levels. Beau advises students to work with the ingredients they already have and focus on simple, sustainable dishes.
“You can make pizza or salad, since you need a lot of fresh vegetables in a healthy diet. Salad is easy. You don’t even have to cook, just chop up whatever you have.”
Both the chefs and coordinators of Live Below the Line clearly believe that a little goes a long way – but only, as campaign director Daniel warns, if you’re proactive.
“Remember that Live Below the Line is not the same as living in poverty. You don’t get the whole picture. You have to reflect and find ways to make a bigger impact, whether it’s through fundraising or fair-trade shopping,” he says.
We want people to get involved and take action on issues they care about, rather than a clicktivist approach where they only think they’re gaining understanding.”
“We want people to get involved and take action on issues they care about, rather than a clicktivist approach where they only think they’re gaining understanding.”
Daniel adds that the campaign aims to raise $2.5 million and attract 10,000 participants from all over Australia.
“I truly believe in the next few years, Live Below the Line can change the way we think and act on the issue of extreme poverty.”
Live Below the Line is one of Australia’s fastest growing anti-poverty campaigns. From May 6 to 10, thousands of Australians will eat on two dollars a day for five days. For more information, or to take part, visit the campaign website.