TV gardener Toby Buckland has been an advocate for Send a Cow since he was introduced to us at BBC Gardeners’ World Live in 2011. This week Toby will be Living Below the Line with his wife and three children to raise awareness for our work in the world’s hungriest country – Burundi.

We interviewed Toby last week to find out a bit more about why he's decided to Live Below the Line and how he's planning to do it with his family in tow. 

What prompted you to Live Below the Line?

I thought it would be a good thing to do to raise awareness. When I found out the number of people who live on such a meagre diet I was shocked, and I thought this would be a good way to spread the word.

I love Send a Cow’s focus on gardening and sustainability so the choice of charity was an easy one for me.

Who are you doing it with?
With a bit of persuading, my family have agreed to do it with me. I thought the run up to Easter would be a good time to do it, but it was a challenge to get them involved. I have two boys and a girl and the boys weren’t so keen on the idea. Their response was, “isn’t life hard enough?”

I’ll be interested to see how they cope. Children are real sugar addicts these days, they have such a sweet tooth.

What will you be eating during the week?
It’s going to be 50 ways with dahl! We’re going for cheap bulk foods and I have also been to see my local butcher. He’s getting me an ox heart, which only costs £1. It’s on the offal end of the spectrum. I told him not to do me any favours with the price, but he said a big one would be only £1. They’re cheap because no one really likes the idea of eating heart! Apparently it’s a bit like a cross between liver and beef and you can stew it up with veg.

We’re also going to be eating some foods that are freely available in the hedgerows. It will be tricky as it’s the hungry season here - not much available although we will have a few salad leaves from the garden.

There will be alexanders, which are named after Alexander the Great. They are described as an alternative to broccoli, but they’re really not as nice. ‘Edible’ would be a good way to describe them!

We’ll also be eating cleavers and sea samphire, which grows around here as we live near the sea. Whatever we can find, really! I’m going to really miss coffee. I can make tea with herbs I grow like nettle, rosemary and so on, but it will be the caffeine I really miss!





What do you think you will find hardest?

Getting through the five days, to be honest! It’s going to be like being on rationing. There are so many things we take for granted, like milk and coffee and sugar.
I think the hardest thing will be the amount of time I am going to have to spend thinking about food– we’re lucky enough to just buy what we like when we like.

This is going to be a whole new paradigm, being so conscious of food. I’ll have to get past thinking of a chicken as a one-meal-wonder, we’ll need to stretch things out more. We only have £25 for the week, it’s really not going to be easy.

I am usually a bit of a foodie, I’m interested in food and I like trying different things. I’m also used to lots of variety, and as a family we eat a wide variety of things. We don’t eat unhealthily, but sometimes we are all eating different things. Not that that is a bad thing.

Do you have any work or social commitments that week that will be difficult?
I don’t dare to check – I’m sure I have plenty of work commitments and meetings. It’s going to be really hard to resist coffee in meetings, I usually drink a lot. I’ve done the 5:2 diet a few times, like lots of people. That’s fairly easy as it’s only one day at a time so you can get through it. This is going to be much harder.

Do you think it will bring up any particular emotions for you?
It’s going to be tough. Especially thinking of how it will impact my children – my youngest child, my daughter – I just wouldn’t be able to see her go hungry. That would be really tough.

You are planning to grow vegetables – are you doing this in an African style? What are you planning to grow?
We have a few leaves growing but not very much at all, it’s too early. I’m going to go fishing with my son, although I think we need to allocate a bit of money to that.

What do you think your first back-to-normal meal will be?
I haven’t thought about that yet! I’m sure by the end of the week we’ll be torturing ourselves thinking of things to have.

I’m sure there will be amazing things in the week, some pitfalls too! The one thing I am really sure about is that by the end of the week we will all feel no small sense of pride that we got through it.






You can stay up to date with Toby's challenge on Twitter by following @TobyBuckland and @SendaCow as well as the hashtag #belowtheline. If you aren't on Twitter, you can Like us on Facebook or keep an eye on the blog for more updates.