Food for thought; Do the Math participants draw attention to growing problem

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There is nothing like walking a mile in someone else’s shoes to gain some perspective. That is one lesson that the 22 participants of the local segment of the Food Matters Coalition’s “Do the Math, Eat the Math” campaign learned after spending one eye-opening week  in November subsisting entirely on the contents of a hamper provided by their local food bank.
The goal of the province-wide campaign, facilitated locally by the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Health Unit, was to highlight the inadequacy of provincial funding for the food portion of social assistance, while drawing attention to the growing food security problem in Ontario.
When the campaign wrapped, each participant met with project organizer, Carol Chang, for a debriefing to discuss their experiences while providing data for the Unit’s upcoming report on hunger and nutrition within the region. 
During these meetings, Chang learned that most participants experienced a lower level of energy due to the high sodium/low protein diet, as well as feelings of anxiety and, in some cases depression, all of which Chang says are characteristic of an insecure food supply.
“I think this changed people’s perspective,” said Chang.
“Most of the participants said that if they learned anything, it’s that food security is about more than just putting food in your belly, it’s about a standard of living.”
Though several months have now passed since the conclusion of “Do the Math”, the experience, explained the Unit’s chief medical officer and “Do the Math” participant, Dr. Paula Stewart, “stays with you”.

“Wherever I go, I talk about food security,” said Stewart during a recent “Work on the Math” conference facilitated by the Food Matters Coalition and the Health Unit.
And Stewart isn’t the only one. In fact, most of the participants have proceeded to lead a number of food-security related initiatives inspired by the campaign.
Former mayor of Leeds and the Thousands Islands, Frank Kinsella, who participated in the project along with his wife, Marylou, has joined forces with the Seeley’s Bay food bank and the local Freshmart to create a produce voucher for food bank clients, and is currently pursuing a partnership with Loblaws, that would include an PC credit card for food bank volunteers to purchase items for the facilities. 
Eighteen year-old, Sarah Wheeler shared her intriguing glimpse into the complex realities that surround poverty, in a promotional video for the campaign, in hopes that it will encourage more youth to become involved in advocacy.
Wheeler’s mother, and fellow participant, Janet Eaton, encouraged her fellow Rotarians to bring can-openers to meetings to be donated to food banks and included in hampers for clients who do not own one, while Eaton’s husband Ray Wheeler has looked to public officials to endorse the project.
“As a community, we have to pressure the government to get involved,” said Wheeler.
“We have the ability to make a difference, let’s use it.”

For more information about food security in our communities, visit the foods matters website at

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