Thursday, November 6, 2014

How much can you get for 1,000 colones?

One thousand colones is equivalent to two dollars.  That's the cost of four San Jose bus rides, a cup of ice cream, or a bag of mamón chinos.  It's also the amount of money that people living below the poverty line have to pay for a full day of meals. Walking into the San Jose Central Market, my classmates and I were challenged to purchase three balanced meals for a day, about 1,500 calories worth, with only one thousand colones to spend.  We had just listened to a lecture on nutrition, and we used this information as a basis for our frugal shopping decisions. In general, a balanced meal includes three portions of non-starchy vegetables, two portions of fruit, six portions of starch, two portions of milk, and six portions of lean meat.  My group was forced to get creative in order to achieve our task.

Here is a list of our shopping purchases:
·            2 bananas for 100 colones
·            2 carrots for 200 colones
·            1 portion of raw chicken for 385 colones
·            3 small potatoes for 200 colones
·            1 slice of cheese for 100 colones

With just 15 colones remaining, we managed to cover most major food groups and put together about 1,200 calories worth of food.  We were proud of our purchases and rewarded ourselves with delicious sorbet ice cream, which cost about 1,100 colones.  It wasn't until I took my first bite of ice cream that I realized I had just spent more than someone's entire daily food allowance on one scoop of ice cream.  Although I enjoyed my sweet treat, I also regretted my purchase and felt guilty for spending what now seemed like so much money on just one item.
After we left the market we returned to the OTS office in order to present and discuss our purchases.  Each group of students had a lot of pride in their days-worth of meals.  I started to notice the lack of variety in our chosen meals, as well as the shortage on calories.  I also considered an important topic that we had learned during our morning nutrition lecture – food use.  Going into this activity, we had knowledge of the nutritional basis of foods, including the quantity of different types of foods that should be consumed on a daily basis.  This was a luxury that many people living below the poverty do not have.
I was grateful for the opportunity to take part in this assignment in order to gain a better understanding of what it is like to live off of $2 a day.  While we treated the assignment as a fun challenge, for many people across the globe it is a daily reality.

Rebecca Passman

Image 1:  Entrance to the Central Market, San Jose, Costa Rica (Photo Credit:  Google Images)
Image 2:  Produce at the Central Market (Photo Credit:  Google Images)

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