ASU students want to raise awareness for people living with hunger

The students will only spend $2 a day on food and live in cardboard boxes as part of a challenge

Almost half of the world’s population is living on $2 a day, and a group of ASU students wants to fix that.

Yann Raymond, a junior studying sustainability, will be sleeping in a makeshift cardboard house on Hayden lawn among some of his peers, Isabella Russian and Nambi Srivatsav. They will spend only $2 a day for five days and four nights from March 27 to 31.

Raymond said Oxfam at ASU and other student organizations started participating in the $2 a day challenge in 2015. Raymond also said this year will be the second time he has participated.

“The aim of the activity is to raise awareness among the university community about approximately 48 percent of the world’s population that lives off $2 a day or less,” Raymond said.

According to Global Issues, over 3 billion people in the world live on less than $2.50 a day, and at least 80 percent of the world lives on less than $10.

“The goal is also to touch individuals taking part in the challenge on a more personal level,” Raymond said. “Students taking the challenge usually experience a shift in their values after realizing the constraints of not having access to our usual, almost unlimited sources of food and services.”

Raymond said the entire challenge results in the students eating less calories and having less satisfaction with their food, and it makes the students more empathetic with the people who suffer from the limited diet on a daily basis.

“It becomes a lot clearer why obesity is such a huge issue among food-insecure communities if you lived off Mac n’ Cheese and $1 hot dog packs,” he said.

Raymond said the usual plan for surviving the week is spending the $10 all in one day and buy hotdogs, tortillas or eggs because they provide quick energy and are fairly cheap.

"I am a vegetarian," he said. "And my diet during the last challenge consisted of ramen, eggs, avocados, pasta, tortillas, beans and corn."

Raymond said the problems that come with the challenge stretch further than just limiting his spending.

“It also entails broader implications such as where can you cook your food while living in the shelter, where do you put your clothes, how do I make sure my belongings won’t get stolen, and how do others look at me,” he said.

Raymond also said everyone chooses their own limits because ideally students wouldn't use electricity, cars or the meals in the dining hall, but students have to balance that with doing their homework, going to class and going to work.

“As a student, it is hard to draw the line,” he said. “But people actually living off $2 a day have to make those decisions on a daily basis, and it includes energy, transportation, education, housing etc.”

Raymond said he’s participating because he believes people cannot live a fulfilling and healthy life if they don’t have access to nutritional food.

“I would like to participate in the process of eradicating hunger,” he said. “One way of doing this is by putting yourself in the shoes of people who are suffering from it.”

Isabella Russian, a sophomore majoring in political science and minoring in justice studies is participating in the challenge for the first time. She said she has been helping budget the $10 for each person.

“A lot of people have to do this every single day,” she said. “I feel like homelessness, especially in Phoenix, is prevalent.”

Russian said Oxfam, the main student organization involved, will also hold a variety of events and will have cardboard displays with information about homelessness and poverty around the world.

Russian also said she wants to stay in the boxes all four nights, but it depends on how busy she is with her classes, so she will probably only stay for two or three of the nights.

“I am a little nervous,” she said. “I eat a lot. So I’m not sure how I’ll be able to do it.”

Russian said the challenge is part of a larger week-long event called Sun Devil Unite Week which is a week designated for philanthropy at ASU.

Nambi Srivatsav, a graduate student studying computer science, said he urges other students to participate alongside them.

Srivatsav also said he thinks that just by participating he is helping with the effort.

“The main thing is to raise awareness about how people are living with less than $2,” he said. “People will walk up to us  and ask ‘why are you doing this?’”


Reach the reporter at anbuechl@asu.edu or follow @alexa_buechler on Twitter.

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