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be on the breadline

To be very poor, as if one could (or does) rely on food donations to survive. A "breadline" is a line of people seeking food distributed by a charitable or government agency. If I don't make a big sale this week, my family will be on the breadline. Sure, we have money now, but my grandmother grew up in a family that was on the breadline and lived in public housing.
See also: breadline, on

be/live on the breadline

  (British & Australian)
to be very poor
Usage notes: In America, breadlines were very poor people standing in a line waiting for free food provided by the government.
Most families of the unemployed are on the breadline. How many elderly people in Britain are living on the breadline?
See also: breadline, on

below the breadline

Extremely poor.
See also: below, breadline

on the breadline

Dependent on public donations of food.
See also: breadline, on
References in periodicals archive ?
Mark Holweger, managing director at Legal & General, said: "While it's heartening to see an improvement in the financial situation of North East households, this fourth edition of our Deadline to the Breadline report exposes the harsh reality that many households in this region are on the brink and just weeks away from becoming reliant upon family, friends or the state.
Because George's breadline was to be a wintertime piece, he outfitted his models (all friends) accordingly.
Peter Allenson, National Organiser for the Service Sector said: "Our members are living on the breadline yet they have been offered a pay cut when rising living costs are causing working people to struggle.
Not far from that bronze breadline at the FDR memorial, you'll find this inscription of the late president's words: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
Breadline is fully supported via income from ticket sales; rehearsal space rental; art gallery and party space rental; on-site classes, such as acting, voice and playwriting; as well as welcome but generally unsolicited individual donations.
The stark image of a depression-era breadline of unemployed laborers set on San Francisco's waterfront and shot by famed photographer Dorothea Lange, is the new cover image for Jameco's current electronic components catalog.
Legal & General's first Northern England Deadline to the Breadline report claims that within one and a half weeks of losing their usual sources of income, the average family would be reliant upon state benefits and friends and family alone for financial support.
I'll bet those who say they are on the breadline still have their cans of beer and cigarettes.
But with a third of the population not having any money put away, researchers say this could see a significant number of people on the breadline in the event of a financial disaster.
He charged compound interest of more than 700,000 per cent to clients on the breadline.
These people are sitting on a West Indies island at a cost of PS19,000 a week rental for a villa, while millions of families in this country are reportedly below the breadline and having to pay for their food on credit cards - and we're supposed to get ourselves outraged because of the photograph.
Luciana Berger's film Breadline Britain premiered at the Food for Real Film Festival in Liverpool.
Kervin organises Coventry Soup Kitchen under the ring road every Sunday which feeds the homeless and vulnerable families living on the breadline.
While such as Derek Simpson castigate the factory owner, a person who has invested everything in industry for the betterment of himself and his workers, they sit in luxury giving workers the impression that they are fighting from the same base breadline.
7 Days on the Breadline (ITV1, 9pm) is the latest twist on the celebs roughing it format.