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Prominent local citizens experience a taste of poverty

SIMCOE, OCTOBER 29, 2010 – Thirteen well-known community members are getting a firsthand glimpse of the struggles low-income individuals and families face.

In an effort to raise awareness of poverty in Haldimand and Norfolk, a number of prominent citizens have volunteered to participate in the ‘Do The Math’ challenge. Challenge participants agree to live exclusively on the contents of a standard food basket for five days, from November 1st to the 5th.

Organized by the Haldimand and Norfolk Health and Social Services Department, with the help of a number of community service providers, the ‘Do The Math’ challenge hopes to spark discussion and generate ideas for ways to help the numerous local residents struggling to pay their bills and keep food on the table.

Haldimand and Norfolk statistics support the need for action on the issue of poverty. The local Ontario Works department carried a social assistance caseload of 1,430 at the end of June 2010, a 20% increase in cases compared to June 2009. At the same time, area food banks work tirelessly to support those in need but, like many communities, the food supply often fails to keep up with the demand.

“Many people think poverty is not an issue in Haldimand and Norfolk, that it’s only an issue in large cities,” said Patti Moore, challenge participant and General Manager of Haldimand and Norfolk Health & Social Services. “In fact, poverty is a real issue in our communities, and the Do The Math challenge is an opportunity for participants to get a taste of that reality.”

Moore will be accompanied in the challenge by Lorraine Bergstrand and Dave McLean of the Haldimand-Norfolk Literacy Council, Norfolk County councillor Heidy Van Dyk, Haldimand County’s General Manager of Community Services Hugh Hanly, O.P.P. Detachment Commanders John Periversoff and Zvonko Horvat, Norfolk County’s General Manager of Planning and Economic Development Chris Baird, President of the Haldimand-Norfolk New Democrat Party Ian Nichols, Coordinator of the Lake Erie Steelworkers Action Centre Shannon Horner-Shepherd, Reverend Tim Dobbin from Simcoe’s Trinity Anglican Church, John Moore, teacher at Simcoe Composite School and Tina Gates, Constituency Assistant for the office of M.P.P Toby Barrett.

Challenge participants will post daily blogs online, documenting their experience, nutritional struggles, and any other observations resulting from their altered diet. The blog also provides a forum where residents can voice support, post comments and opinions, and find links to local services in the community.

“We hope that this campaign will start some discussion and draw attention to the impossible choices faced by many people on social assistance in Haldimand and Norfolk every day,” said Coraine Wray, Public Health Dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “After paying for other necessities such as rent, clothing and transportation, people on a fixed income often have little left over to pay for healthy food.”

The food in the challenge participants’ food baskets includes an array of non-perishable food, such as dried pasta, canned vegetables, and soup, as well as a limited amount of fresh produce. The food basket contents are only intended to provide enough food for three days, making the participant’s task of stretching the food to last for five days more realistic, as many people on a fixed income are forced to stretch this food to last for a week or more.

A detailed list of the contents of the food hamper, along with additional information about the challenge, is available

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Media contact:
Coraine Wray
Public Health Dietitian
Population Health Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3237 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
[email protected]