Mark Brand at Save on Meats Diner

Mark Brand at Save on Meats Diner in Vancouver.

Mark Brand is used to serving food on a budget. The restaurateur, broadcaster and social entrepreneur is famous for re-inventing Save on Meats in Vancouver’s infamously poor Downtown East Side. More than an exercise in hipster gentrification, Brand ensured that his rejuvenated butcher shop and restaurant served the down and out community in which it’s located. He initiated a token program that allows community members to feed hungry people at low cost, and he ensured that there was always affordable good food available at his restaurant. In fact, he told me on the phone recently, the food cost for Save on Meat’s iconic breakfast sandwich, 600 of which are served every day, is about $1.75.

That amount, $1.75, just happens to be the most people are allowed to spend on food per day when they sign-up for Live Below The Line. It’s a fundraising event organized across the world in Canada, The United States and UK by the Global Poverty Project. Participants in the event must promise to feed themselves for no more than $1.75 a day, and Brand has signed-up this year to offer advice, and more than 40 recipes, for the benefit of participants across Canada. Brand explained to me that he and the Save on Meats team have honed cost cutting strategies that he’s excited to share with the Live Below The Line participants. Examples of ways to save money without compromising on the quality of one’s food include batch cooking, and seeking “end of run produce” to cook with.

Live Below The Line started in Canada last year (see GFR’s 2013 coverage here). Nadia Chychrun, a GTA-based nutritionist, participated last year with her husband and two daughters (then aged 9 and 11). Chychrun kept a blog of her experience at On the phone, I asked her if it was possible to eat well on $1.75 from a nutritional point of view. She laughed and said the short answer was no. The biggest problem, she explained is fat: either animal or plant-based oil. Fats are expensive, as opposed to carbohydrates, she explained, but they’re essential to the central nervous system so the body craves them for good reason.

Still, Chychrun is planning to take on the Live Below The Line challenge again this year, and thinks every well-off Canadian family should try it: “It’s really important to learn about what it feels like to be physically hungry.”

Find out more about Live Below The Line at

Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at @malcolmjolley.