Organizer’s Action Guidelines:

Background: What has the government committed to do?

  • The government has committed to a poverty reduction strategy for Ontario that is focused on reducing child poverty, but it has failed to address the insufficiency of current social assistance programs to meet even the most basic of needs like decent shelter and healthy food.
  • The Government has promised to hold a “Social Assistance Review” but so far has indicated little interest in actually addressing the adequacy of social assistance benefits.

What has our campaign accomplished so far?

In just six weeks from mid-February to the end of March, the Put Food in the Budget Campaign:

  • Joined the voices of local community leaders with public health voices in twelve communities across Ontario to advocate that the Provincial Government put the Healthy Food Supplement in its budget on March 26;
  • Made the critical link between health, food and income in local media across the province;
  • Established the wide discrepancy between what it costs to meet basic living needs for minimal health and well-being and what social assistance recipients get in their monthly OW or ODSP benefits
  • Shifted the public discourse on poverty reduction to include adults as well as children and families;
  • Generated the support for putting food in the budget of more than 1,200 signatories to a petition; and
  • Collected and posted many stories from people across the province about the difference $100 would make in meeting monthly living costs.

We remain committed to winning a Healthy Food Supplement and ensuring that our Poverty Reduction Strategy supports all Ontarians, including the poorest among us that depend on social assistance each month. We need the government to “Do the Math” and finally address the issue of social assistance adequacy so that people without paid employment can put food in their budget and live a life of health and dignity.

Your Mission: Should you decide to accept it…

Do the Math and distribute to your networks:

Visit our website at http://dothemath.thestop.org, Do the Math, and send a message to the government of Ontario and to your email contacts and networks.

Become a lead organizer in your community and establish a team to Do the Math:

  • Step one: Gather your team at a community centre, a faith institution, or around someone’s kitchen table. Do the Math together. See what you find out, and have a discussion. Your team could consist of some of the following members of your community:
  • Someone with lived experience of trying to make ends meet on a social assistance check (OW and/or ODSP).
  • A supportive person from the local medical community. (This could be a doctor, nurse, and/or a member of the public health department).
  • One or more of the following community leaders: a faith leader, social worker, food bank volunteer, teacher, union representative, someone who is precariously employed, someone who has recently lost a job and does not qualify for EI.
  • Step two: Connect to the local media to share your experience. This could be in the form of a letter to the local paper, a collective meeting with the editorial team, a joint op-ed, or just a phone call to a local journalist. Say that your team has done the math and that it does not add up. Say that you are arranging a meeting with your local MPP to Do the Math.
  • Step three: Call your local MPP and ask for a meeting to discuss poverty in your community and specifically to Do the Math activity together. You can send the survey link in advance or bring a paper copy to the meeting or ask your MPP to complete it ‘online’ during your meeting.
  • Step four: Re-convene your Do the Math team and discuss the meeting with your MPP.
  • Step five: Reconnect with your local media and share your results of your meeting. Contact the campaign and share your results with organizers across the province by sending an email to pclutterbuck@spno.ca. We will summarize and report out results on the Put Food in the Budget page on the Poverty Watch Ontario web site (www.povertywatchontario.ca/put-food-in-the-budget)

Let us know the following:

  • Did your MPP Do the Math? (If not, what reason did s/he give to skip the survey? We want to report on this information also.)
  • Did your MPP say that current rates were adequate or did s/he admit that they do not add up to a life of health and dignity?
  • How much did your MPP calculate the minimum (dollar amount) of income a person in the riding needs each month to live a healthy life and participate with dignity in the community?

Looking ahead:

Between now and Thanksgiving (October 12) we hope that communities in every riding will meet with their MPPs and Do the Math. Over Thanksgiving weekend, we will ask you to ask families to Do the Math around their own Thanksgiving table.

On the week following Thanksgiving, we will release the results of our lobbying with a number of events that could include:

  • A public letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty, sharing our results and demanding that he Do the Math and address the deficiency of social assistance programs.
  • A public meal/rally at Queens Park.
  • A press conference and op-eds in mainstream newspapers.
  • What else can you do to raise awareness and create pressure for change in your community? Keep in mind that October 16 is World Food Day and October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Be creative and share your stories and ideas by sending an email to pclutterbuck@spno.ca. We will also re-set the Poverty Watch Ontario web site for you to enter your stories and comments about your experiences with Do the Math directly to the PFIB web page.

Tell us how we can support you:

  • If your community needs support to prepare for a meeting with your MPP or with the media, contact us at pclutterbuck@spno.ca and we will see how we can help.

The Social Planning Network of Ontario and all local partners in the Put Food in the Budget initiative wish to acknowledge and thank the Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto for developing and making available the Do the Math tool and web site for use in this important campaign. Queries about Do the Math can be directed to Jonah Schein at civicengagement@thestop.org.

Put Food in the Budget http://povertywatchontario.ca/put-food-in-the-budget is linked to the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction. For regular updates on advocacy work to push for an effective Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy, go to www.25in5.ca.

PFIB now has its own website