HAMILTON, ON, Dec. 6 /CNW/ - People in Ontario living on social assistance live with chronic hunger and poor health because they do not have enough money to buy food. On Monday December 6th, 20 McMaster University Medical students will begin a five day challenge to live on a diet similar to that of many people living on social assistance in Ontario. In doing so, they are demanding that the Ontario government take immediate action to ensure that their future patients may live with health and dignity.
The Challenge is part of the Put Food in the Budget Campaign, which aims to urge the Ontario government to take immediate action to address the daily challenges experienced by people living on social assistance by introducing a $100 per month Health Food Supplement.
Nikki Bozinoff, a first year medical student and a member of the McMaster Community Poverty Initiative says, "Living on social assistance means you're left with a lack of choice in many areas of your life. We know that a poor diet and unstable housing lead to poor health outcomes. As future physicians, we believe it is of utmost importance that each Ontarian has a fair chance at good health."
On Thursday December 9th, the medical students will meet to share their experiences and will write a letter to Dr. Mark MacLeod, the president of the Ontario Medical Association to encourage him to support their call for the $100 a month increase for every adult in Ontario receiving social assistance.
The Do the Math Challenge was initially launched October 4th in Ontario in a dozen communities. A high profile team of Hamilton community leaders completed the Challenge in October and this convinced Nikki and her colleagues they had to join in too. The campaign has attracted overwhelming interest in communities around Ontario. Almost one thousand people have participated and the number of communities joining in continues to grow.
Tracy Mead, a leader in the provincial campaign, whose income is social assistance told a recent rally in Toronto of 150 campaign supporters - "We need change because people are starving. Ask yourself if you could survive on $592.00 a month, take the math challenge, then try to look me in the eye and honestly say everything is ok."
" People who have taken the Challenge tell us that on average they speak with 75 - 100 people during the week they are on the Challenge and that people respond with concern and compassion. Most people they say are surprised to learn a single person receives only $592 a month for housing, food and everything else. Imagine the public education that has happened - between 75,000 and 100,000 people across Ontario having a compassionate conversation about the need to raise social assistance rates in the wealthy province of Ontario," said Mike Balkwill, the provincial co-ordinator of the Put Food in the Budget Campaign.
The campaign is sponsored by the Social Planning Network of Ontario and The Stop Community Food Centre and is supported by ACTRA Toronto, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Association of Ontario Health Centres, Colour of Poverty, CUPE Ontario, OPSEU, CAW, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.
For further information please visit www.putfoodinthebudget.ca. Participants will be blogging about their experiences at http://mcmastermedicalstudentsdtmc.posterous.com/ and tweeting at www.twitter.com/putfoodinbudget.
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