How to eat for less than $2.50 and raise money for SCI!

How to eat for less than $2.50 and raise money for SCI!

By Tom Ash, Charity Science

Charity Science and The Life You Can Save are excited to announce a new fundraiser called Experience Poverty, which will raise money to provide medical services for children suffering from debilitating parasitic worms. As well as helping to fundraise for deworming treatments for hundreds of children, Experience Poverty is an unusually good opportunity to connect with people who are interested in cost-effective charity and start conversations with them – something that is rare to find an excuse to do. Dozens of people and many effective altruist groups around the world are going to take part. Here are the details:

What:  Spend only $2.50 a day on food for three days. Get sponsored to raise money to fight poverty.

Why: Half of the world spends $2.50 or less on food each day. This reflects income levels at which people often can’t afford basic health care. All money raised goes to buy medicines that cost only 50 cents. It is so cheap to us, but many people in the developing world still cannot afford it

Who: Participants who want to do something to help the global poor and get a sense of what it’s like to eat with very little money to spare.

When: April 22-24, 2015. If those dates don’t work for you, then you can set your own. For example, if you’re at a US university you can choose to participate on April 6-8, when some American college groups will be participating in Experience Poverty.

What you can vary: Any of this: the amount you spend, the number of days and the date. For example, see below for the ‘challenge mode’ of spending only $1.50.

How: Sign up via these links for the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and the Eurozone. You set your goal for how much you’d like to raise (we suggest setting it at $500 or more), write about why you’re doing it, and then it’s as simple as asking your friends and family to sponsor you. We encourage you to join the Life You Can Save fundraising team when you sign up! Charity Science will send you guides, pointers, and we can even do a one-on-one Skype to help you help the most people possible. Just contact us at with “Experience Poverty Skype” as the subject line. 

Or you can just donate to the campaign! 50 cents gives a treatment to a child, so just $20 treats 40 children.

If you don’t live in any of the above countries, then you can either join the US page which will let your friends donate in dollars or you can email Charity Science to see if they can add your country. Donations are tax-deductible in the US and Canada and SCI will get GiftAid in the UK.




Left: What a typical American family eats in a week. Right: What a typical family in Chad (an African country) eats in a week. 

Where does the money go?

The money raised goes to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). Experience Poverty is a partnership between Charity Science and SCI. SCI dispenses medicine that cures children who have parasitic worms (including those that cause the disease schistosomiasis), and prevents future cases of infection. These parasites live inside your body and suck your blood. The effects include fatigue, bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, and other such lovely symptoms. For very young children, the disease can be fatal, and being so ill leads to many sick days away from school and work. In fact, this is why deworming is arguably one of the most cost-effective ways to give children an education. (Miguel and Kremer 2004 found that effective deworming treatments led to a 25% reduction in school absenteeism, although this is a difficult effect to pin down; for more details, read about additional benefits of deworming from GiveWell).

To get an idea of SCI’s scope, they have now successfully delivered over 140 million treatments against schistosomiasis and even more against soil transmitted helminths (intestinal worms); in 2015 they hope to deliver 50 million treatments, and possibly 100 million per year after that with enough donor support. It’s difficult to estimate the dollar figure per quality of adjusted life year (QALY), but the cost of the deworming pills is around 50 cents per dose. Because of its amazing cost-effectiveness and scale, SCI is picked as one of the world’s most effective charities by GiveWell, the most reliable and empirical charity evaluator by a long way. For more information see GiveWell’s detailed review, or Charity Science’s simpler summary

What are the rules?

The spirit of the event involves getting a (very rough) experience of poverty, and to ultimately make it so that fewer people have to have similar experiences. As long as it is done in this spirit, do what works for you. If you need to spend a bit more money, you can set your own amount. If you can’t do it on April 22-24, do a different time. If you lapse during your three days, it’s OK. You might even want to mention it on Facebook, talking about how difficult it was. It will help people understand how hard poverty is.

Why $2.50?
Half of the world lives on less than $1,368 a year. Around 65% of that is spent on food, which means $2.43 a day. We rounded to $2.50 a day because round numbers are nicer, but you can spend only $2.43 if you’d like.

You might have traveled to a poor country and know that you can buy more for $2.50 overseas. This is a good point, which is why the $2.43 figure is adjusted to how much $2.43 could buy in the USA in 2005. That’s not much. Now imagine that you have to use the remaining $1.75 per day on shelter, transport, healthcare, and entertainment. That’s why we’re running this campaign. Because that’s just too little and we want to change it. 

What could you possibly eat for only $2.50 a day?
Not much. But that’s kind of the point. It’s to get a sense of how limiting $2.50 is. It’s like running a marathon for charity, but a lot more related.

However, it’s not all abstinence. (That’s reserved for the people taking the challenge mode who will spend only $1.50 a day.) Here’s a few cheap meals people have tried in the past:

  • Rice, beans, and spices or soy sauce
  • Butternut squash pasta
  • Ramen noodles (always a guilty pleasure anyway)
  • Oatmeal with chopped banana

Things you’ll have to give up:

  • Starbucks or buying coffee out
  • Restaurants
  • Alcoholic drinks


Challenge Mode: live on $1.50

Yawn. $2.50? You already did that in college. Well worry not my frugal friend, there is a challenge mode! $1.50 a day is roughly the international poverty line, so why not try to live on only that for 3 days?

Why do the challenge mode?

  • People raise more when they suffer more. Yes, they did a study on this, and yes, people are strange creatures.
  • You’ll get a better sense of what extreme poverty is like.
  • You’ll get an e-high five from the Experience Poverty team.

Share this story:

Related stories:


About the author:

Guest Blogger

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.