STYLE

Canadians challenged to eat, drink on $1.75 a day to understand extreme poverty

04/15/2015 11:43 EDT | Updated 06/24/2015 07:59 EDT
TORONTO - Eating and drinking on $1.75 a day is not something Vancouver chef Trevor Bird had ever considered.

That's the Canadian equivalent of the extreme poverty line, an amount that 1.2 billion people around the world must live on daily for all their needs.

But Bird, co-owner and head chef of Fable restaurant, agreed to put his culinary skills to the test to develop low-cost recipes for participants in the 2015 Live Below the Line campaign.

"I was, like, 'I don't even know how to cook anything that cheap because I've just never even thought about it,'" he said by telephone.

"Being Canadian and pretty privileged it's like your brain doesn't conceive it until you look at what you can make for $1.75 a day — not per meal, but in a day — and it's pretty shocking how little it is."

It's the third year for the Live Below the Line challenge in Canada, which has raised more than $250,000. Funds go to 11 Canadian organizations that carry out programs focused on nutrition, water, health and sanitation, and education.

New for this year's event, which runs April 27 to May 1, Canadian organizers have recruited more than a dozen chefs from nine cities to create healthy and affordable recipes, including chef and former "Dragons' Den" personality Vikram Vij.

Bird, runner-up on season 2 of "Top Chef Canada," had to be creative.

"The challenges were: just what can you eat for 40 to 60 cents a meal? It's really hard. I mean, especially coming from a chef. The organizers are, like, 'make something good' and it's, like, 'I don't know how, to be straight honest.'"

It was eye-opening when too many vegetables pushed the cost of a dish to $1.05 per serving and he had to go back to the drawing board. He came up with a vegetable slaw (65 cents a serving) and a roasted cauliflower dish (60 cents a serving).

For those trying the challenge, Bird advises a lot of researching and planning.

"The more prep work you do, the less processed food you buy, the more successful you'll be and the less it will cost you."

Stock up on vinegar, which "always makes everything taste better, just like salt," he said.

Buy whole vegetables — carrots, onions, eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potato — which can be chopped, sprinkled with salt and roasted.

Rice and pasta are inexpensive, especially if you make the pasta yourself with an egg and flour.

Shop with coupons and look for produce that's marked down because it's close to its sell-by date.

Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, an organization that envisions a world without extreme poverty by 2030. Information on signing up for or donating to the challenge is at http://www.livebelowtheline.com/ca.

More than 30,000 people in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada have taken the challenge and raised in excess of $10 million for anti-poverty organizations.

Follow @lois_abraham on Twitter.

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