Chocolate expert bars himself from cocoa beans for 5 days

A leading chocolate expert will be swapping cocoa beans for pulses at the end of March as he signs up to international development agency Tearfund’s 5-day Mean Bean Challenge. His fundraising will be all the sweeter because money he and others raise through this challenge before 17 May will be doubled by the UK Government, up to a total of £2 million.

Will Torrent, Tearfund ambassador and pastry and chocolate consultant, is planning to eat nothing but a simple diet of porridge, plain rice and beans for 5 days, to raise money to help beat hunger and poverty.  

‘I’m quite daunted by the thought of it,’ confessed Will ‘as my working life usually involves creating and tasting lots of tempting treats and obviously I enjoy them – who wouldn’t? But I’m determined to do this challenge, because there are many people around the world – like Nida from Pakistan – for whom this sort of limited diet is a daily reality.’

Mother-of-four Nida works an 11-hour day to try to support her family but still can’t give them more than a small and monotonous diet.  She can’t afford school fees and the family is forced to live alongside her community’s uncollected rubbish, which causes disease. But she has hopes:

‘I want my children to be educated, so that they can wear good clothes and eat good food,’ she says.

Tearfund partner Pak Mission Society (PMS) aims to train local people like Nida (pictured) to earn money by collecting and treating waste products at new community recycling hubs, and selling the recyclable waste and compost. Credit: Hazel Thompson/Tearfund

Until 17 May, all sponsorship money donated through the Mean Bean Challenge will be doubled by the UK government, up to £2 million.  Donations to this appeal will help Tearfund transform lives around the world where the need is greatest. Match funding from the UK Government will be used by Tearfund’s partners in Pakistan to set up innovative waste recycling hubs in some of the country’s poorest slum communities. These hubs will help tackle waste and plastic pollution, provide sustainable livelihoods and improve people’s health and living conditions.

Tearfund partner Pak Mission Society (PMS) aims to train local people like Nida to earn money by collecting and treating waste products at the new community recycling hubs, and selling the recyclable waste and compost. As well as increasing her income, working at the hub would save Nida precious hours so she would have more time to spend with her children, care for her sick husband and look after herself. The family could eat a balanced diet, they could pay for the medicines they need, and the children would not have to miss out on school.

Will Torrent’s fellow Tearfund ambassador, baker Tom Herbert, inspired Will to put his Christian faith into action in this way:

‘Tom told me mutual support is invaluable when you’re taking a challenge like this. Beaners are better together, it seems, so I’ll be asking my friends and family to encourage me, and who knows? –  maybe one or two of them will even take part. Taking this challenge through Tearfund means joining together with others and getting our fundraising matched by the UK Government, so it’s an effective way for us to do what we can to help lift people out of poverty.’

Almost 2,500 people have taken the Mean Bean Challenge since it began in 2016, and  participants have reported how much it impacts their thinking about poverty, both during and long after the Challenge.  

Last year the Durham branch of Christian student group Just Love, who raise awareness and take action on social justice issues, signed up to the Mean Bean Challenge.  They were able to donate over £4,000 to Tearfund as a result, but admitted the challenge was far harder than expected. ‘It was so worth it to come together in community and address the issues we believe need to come to an end,’ said group member Phoebe Mitchell, adding:  

‘I found writing essays on zero caffeine quite impossible, and don’t think I will ever look at beans and rice in quite the same way, but it was so good to be able to fundraise for Tearfund, and also get the message out among Durham students about the charity and the problems they are tackling.’

Tearfund supporter and freelance filmmaker Rachel Shannon also took the Mean Bean Challenge last year.

‘I found myself hungry but not looking forward to eating,’

she said, adding

‘this made me realise afresh my privilege in variety, and how much food can impact my emotional and mental well-being!  Knowing that a ‘nice meal’ is never a reality for many, many people living in poverty around the world spurred me on to keep going – even when it was hard and I was hankering for the sandwich belonging to the commuter sitting next to me. I’m really glad I stuck with it, not only because of the money I raised and encouragement I received from folks on social media, but also because it helped me to gain a bit more understanding about the reality of living on a very monotonous diet.  I hope I continue to be shaped by my experience, being thankful and more considerate of others.’

‘The response to Mean Bean has really blown our expectations,’

said Tearfund’s UK Churches Team Director Virginia Luckett.

‘People really seem to catch the vision of what it is all about: a chance to experience a restricted and monotonous diet – which many people around the world have no choice but to live on –  as well as a focus for fundraising. We hope that more people than ever will be inspired to take part this year because of the Government’s promise to double donations, up to a £2 million total and until 17 May.’

To sign up to this year’s Mean Bean Challenge, which takes place between 20 and 24 March, please visit


Main Image credit: Tearfund

Louise Thomas

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