With Thanksgiving approaching, most students are counting down the days to turkey, stuffing and their holiday favorites. For LSA seniors Alissa Renz and Clare Porter, though, Thanksgiving will be a scaled-down affair.

The students committed to spending just $1 a day on food each for the month of November to draw attention and raise funds for the fight against global poverty.

Renz said she thought of the idea in October when trying to imagine what Thanksgiving would be like without money to buy food. She said she began researching ways she could bring attention to the issue and found others around the country who’d completed similar experiments. After telling Porter, a fellow member of the sorority Theta Nu Xi, the students got to work planning the details.

Porter and Renz are documenting their progress through a blog — one-dollar-a-day.blogspot.com. They are also raising money to donate to Millennium Promise, a non-profit organization that works to eradicate global poverty in the next few decades through a PayPal account on their blog.

The students decided not to buy in bulk at the beginning of the month in order to better simulate actual conditions, Porter said. Their food staples have been oatmeal, rice, lentils and “a lot of ramen” plus bananas as a 16-cent “treat,” she said.

They both said it has been especially challenging because they’re both vegetarians and ramen without meat byproducts cost more than one dollar per package. However, they have learned tricks to get more bang for their buck.

“The first day we did this, we didn’t know what to buy,” Renz said. “So my first purchase was a pound of rice. Plain rice is so boring — it’s a chore to eat. As hungry as I was, I was starting to dread my next meal,” she said.

Renz said she’s learned how to add flavor to bland meals by adding taco or ramen seasoning to rice and wrapping it in a tortilla, an extremely cheap yet filling recipe.

The diet’s lack of nutrition has had physical effects, including headaches and fatigue, especially during the first few days, Renz said.
“At the beginning, I wondered — I knew I’d do it, but I wasn’t sure if my life would be a happy thing for a month,” Porter said. “The body can’t digest stuff as easily, so a lot of times after eating I had to go straight to sleep.”

Both students’ bodies have physically adjusted, and both said they feel less hungry in general. The most difficult thing, both agree, is the psychological component.

“It’s difficult because food is used as comfort so often,” Porter said. “This really enforces for me that poverty and hunger are body, mind, spirit, everything. It’s a mental problem if you’re hungry.”

Renz and Porter’s efforts will culminate in a Hunger Awareness Banquet on Dec. 9 in conjunction with Theta Nu Xi and the SERVE Issue Education and Awareness team. The event will feature speakers discussing local hunger and poverty issues and testimony from the two students.

Though the students miss indulgences like lattes and sushi, they said they won’t be splurging on Dec. 1.

“People say ‘I’d eat all the food from world,’ but it’d be so sad if that’s what we came away with,” Porter said. “I think I’m just going to really enjoy the flavors and the freshness.”

Renz agreed, and said she feels it will change the way she thinks about eating after this experiment is over.

“I’ve come to realize I can sustain myself on this little,” she said. “It seems unnecessary for my body and unnecessary for my wallet.”

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