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Saturday October 1, 2011

I have been on the road a lot, just heading out again, so haven’t noticed issue as much as I might during my more normal days of months gone by.  It’s been a challenge, as if I am out, I will restrict myself to something from the box, and it is very limiting. 

Gives me an appreciation of what many of our residents must go through and the need to look after anyone who needs help.


 Jim McDonell

Sunday October 2nd, 2011


I am coming to an end of the trial this morning and have a greater appreciation for the issues people on assistance face every day.  Other than our township’s Fireman’s fundraiser last night, I tried to follow the basket items.  Sometime when I was out, I found it difficult to stay away from items that were not in my choice of foods, especially when you know this happens out of necessity for many of our residents.  If elected, I will work to ease this problem as much as possible. 

Thank you as it was a good and worthwhile experience. 


Jim McDonell


Mark MacDonald’s experience…

Thursday September 29 

After one day into the challenge, I can’t say I feel any different (physically or mentally). Some of the food items I am permitted to eat are things I already eat daily; mind you I am eating them in much smaller portions now! This morning I had cereal and milk, but I missed adding fresh berries or a sliced banana. To ensure I have enough food to last for the remainder of the challenge, I tried to plan out what I will eat everyday. I’m trying to be creative with some of the food items I picked, like making French toast with the eggs and bread, opposed to my regular PB and toast.

Friday September 30

I’m feeling pretty tired this morning. I’m not sure if it is because of my diet, or my busy schedule due to the campaign. I went to Tim Horton’s this morning, and my brother bought me a coffee, but because I had an egg and toast prior, I passed on anything to eat. I went to the Agape Centre yesterday and today for lunch. I was surprised how much food I got for only a dollar, and how many people were at the centre.

More to come…



Saturday October 1

Today is a big day! The premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, is coming to the office for an afternoon rally. I had a big breakfast to keep me fueled for the day. I am feeling very emotionally and physically tired, but the adrenaline is keeping me going. I’m trying to eat as much fresh food as I can, but being busy means I don’t have much time to prepare proper meals.

DTM2: Day 1

Mark MacDonald and Jim McDonell have agreed to join The Social Development Council of Cornwall & area to raise awareness and get a taste first-hand what it feels like to make the impossible choice between rent and food every day by participating in Cornwall’s 2nd “do the math” challenge (DTM2)!

 DTM2 is a 5 day challenge of surviving only on the contents of a food bank hamper where thousands of Ontarians participated throughout the year since last fall and came together to bring awareness around poverty and the existence of widespread food insecurity and chronic illness related to poor nutrition. 

 This year, the Social Development Council of Cornwall and area’s local “do the math” team will be launching its 2nd challenge on Wednesday September 28th, 2011 starting at 9 AM at the Agape Centre were the participants will start the challenge with an actual appointment with the food bank to pick up their challenge hamper.  “With last year’s overwhelming response and overall empowering experience, and with the support earlier this summer from Cornwall City Council’s municipal resolution to support the Put Food in the Budget’s call for the $100 per month Healthy Food Supplement, we felt it necessary to launch DTM2 again this fall”, says campaign leader Michelle Gratton.

Last year’s challenge participants included St-Lawrence College Professor Jody Souka-Marleau, Upper Canada Leger Centre for Education and Training Executive Director Carmen Cousineau, DreamBuilder Studios Owner Mark Owen and City of Cornwall Mayor Bob Kilger where these participants lived exclusively off the contents of a food bank hamper. The local Challenge was one of many throughout the province, as well as the Provincial “Do the Math Challenge” where MPP Jim Brownell commendably participated.  These participants brought much attention to the unfortunate choices people on social assistance need to make every day and that a well balanced diet is unattainable for far too many.

 The community is once again invited to participate in this 5 day long hands-on awareness piece with their friends and family.  Followers and supporters will be able to support the participants, leave comments and hear about the entire experience by following along on the SDC’s Community Blog site at

 Initially launched in August 2009, this campaign features an interactive website where visitors are asked to add up the monthly expenses they think necessary for a single person on social assistance. This budgetary exercise vividly illustrates that, after housing, clothing and transportation, most people have no money left over for food and must rely on food banks and drop-in meals to survive.   More than 7,000 people have done the math online and thousands of others have signed Do the Math postcards addressed to the Premier of Ontario. These supporters joined the SDC in asking the provincial government to immediately introduce a $100/month Healthy Food Supplement for all adults on social assistance and to establish a clear and transparent process to set rates based on what it actually costs to live a frugal, but healthy and dignified, life in Ontario.

For more information on the campaign or to find out how you can participate, please contact the Social Development Council at 613.930.0211 or

Stay tuned to hear all about this year’s participants…

Are you ready to take the DTM2 Challenge?

Click for updates and new challenge communities!

Melanie’s experience

I’m crashing…. Currently on day 4 of this Challenge and I do not feel well.  Worse, today I went to the food bank for lunch and I am just fighting to keep the tears in.  I feel so sick – and it’s not the food.  There were families, with kids of all ages… Did they take them out of school for lunch?  Does the food bank lunch hour match their school lunch hour? If not, how do they explain where they are going… Words can’t describe my heart ache right now. 

The food was fine, but I’m on carbs/starch overload and just feel blah.  At least I get to go to a nice house and bed.  I get to take a good shower, smell pretty, wear nice (clean) clothes and feel pretty good on the outside even though my stomach is crying on the inside.  But people in poverty – they don’t have that…  They probably feel like crap because they eat crap, and then they have to put on their old clothes and probably don’t have very many things that make them feel good.  No wonder there’s a motivation issue – where could you possibly muster any self-confidence, self-worth or self-esteem in these conditions? 
Melanie Mayer

Mark’s experience

“ It’s day 2,  Tuesday at 9PM and I must say that this experience has humbled me. I have mapped out my consumption over the week and  believe that I will certainly get  the calories I need to keep myself going through the days but I made the hard realization today that it is going to be difficult to maintain a healthy diet on this food budget. I can definitely see a correlation between poverty and long term health issues based on diet.  I think it is important for people to know that eating healthy is a great privilege that should not be taken for granted.   

Certainly the silver lining I see in this experience is our local Agape Centre, the staff and environment at the centre is happy and helpful, I dare say that no one leaves there hungry.  They certainly do their part so let’s do ours!  Take a few minutes and help our people less fortunate than yourself, it does not take much.  A couple of bucks or a few items from your pantry…. Easy right?”

Mark Owen

BLOG 1 -I enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while I planned out my menu for the week. Planning out my meals according to my allocated groceries, is not the norm for me, however will help in keeping track and managing my food inventory. So far so good.


Blog 2 -Tuesday.

Though my menu selection is limited, the food quantity is manageable. I do find myself overdoing it a little with my starch intake, however my sweet tooth is not complaining. Energy fluctuating.



I must admit that “left-overs” have become standard practice come meal time and with the limited menu selection, breakfast, lunch and dinner have become boring and repetitive. I’m assuming the “novelty” of participating in this challenge is wearing off, a couple of days too soon in fact. At this point in time, I’m anticipating Thanksgiving dinner – with ALL the trimmings.





I’ve discovered that being prepared was definitely worth the time I devoted into organizing my weekly meals menu, in order to manage my food allowance / intake, simplifying decisions such as “what’s for dinner”. Lunch-time and Queen’s Park has been, in a word, “unusual” – It’s been a while since I’ve “brown-bagged” it!

Jim Brownell, MPP

Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry


Blog 5-


The fifth and final day of this exercise; I’m feeling quite relieved to be returning to a variety of meal options. Though I have not completely exhausted my provisions, I’m all starched out. While food, other than my allocated groceries was readily available to me throughout the week, I resisted all temptation in order to truly experience this challenge. Side effects such as fatigue, irritability and lack of focus presented themselves, on occasion, however I trust this may have been attributed to my body adjusting to a sudden change of diet.

Jim Brownell, MPP

Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

Hello:  Just to let you know how my challenge is going.

 To be honest, I felt a bit uncomfortable going into the Centre as I had only ever been there once for a meeting a few months ago and did not know where exactly to go.  Of course I could comfort myself in thinking I was only there for the challenge and did not really need food or services – how is that for rationalization.

However, all the staff were welcoming and polite (I had entered through the store section).  I felt even more at ease to see a group of people that I knew from the SDC and Poverty Working Group.  I think that if I were totally alone and knew no one, I would have continued to feel uneasy.

 Joy explained the overall process and the services available at the Centre.  I was able to ask questions so I understand why the Centre asks for detailed information about the people that use the Centre services. 

 I was surprised about the amount of food and variety of choices available.  The hardest part is not having fresh lean meat available followed by fresh fruit and veggies (but I did choose canned fruit and veggies).  I was both happy (that it was available) and sad (that it was needed) to see that certain nutritious foods were set aside for children.  On a positive note I know that almost all schools participate in our student nutrition program that ensures nutritious breakfasts, snacks and/or lunches are available within schools.

 Because I know it is for a short time I am thinking I can do this easily.  However, if I had to make this stretch for a month I would have to do a lot more planning.  I tend to eat the best food first and trying to be creative with the preparation. So I did not use all my tuna in my ‘generic mac ‘n cheese with powdered milk and no butter’ so I can put a bit in a sandwich for lunch! 

So far so good – my family is supportive and set my food aside.



I had the chance this morning to talk to my ‘real’ profile leader who lives with financial difficulties every day.  We could have spoken for hours with all the ideas and suggestions this single mother had.  When we talked about nutrition we both agreed that inexpensive foods are generally of low quality especially the carbs. – pasta, potatoes, low quality cereals…  So she suggested that there should be a way of adding vitamins to supplement the lack of nutritious foods – which sounds like a great idea but of course they are not cheap!  One of the biggest challenge is deciding what is the most important – do you pay rent or buy food, do you get a phone (necessary for emergencies, employment, communication with schools) or do you buy food…  The welfare rates dropped in 1997 and they are still way too low to have a quality of life.  All welfare recipients get basically the same amount across the province so at least in Cornwall the cost of living is lower than the bigger cities.  This may contribute to people without income wanting to live in our area.  We agreed to talk again soon!

 For me personally, all is going pretty well – I am getting tired of just drinking tea and water.  I am not a fan of drinking milk generally, so the idea of mixing powered milk is not an option for me -which is fine because it is only for 5 days.  .  I would have to rethink this if it was for long term – again calcium or vitamin supplements would help out.  Juice was not an option and I do like my occasional pop.  My only ‘meat’ was bacon which I generally have not eaten for years – so I can have a BLT but without the LT – not quite the same!  I did get two treats – a pie and some ice-cream which have become the highlight of my meals.

 That’s all for today – staying the course!



Day 4 – in the home stretch

Today I attended my regular breakfast meeting but was able to stay within my food basket. It was an opportunity to explain to others why I had a selection of food that I normally do not eat. 

  I must admit I am looking forward to the end – I will be truly giving thanks for Thanksgiving!  So I have really gotten a small  ‘taste’ of poverty.  So far the most challenging part has been the lack of meat  -( I had not eaten bacon for many years) and my limited choice of beverages. 



Yeah- Final day!

Well – I was not feeling too great this morning and I am looking forward to returning to my usual diet and lifestyle.  Today at noon we have a celebration luncheon in the office so I am calling it quits and will enjoy my lunch.  It has been a good experience and I will call my ‘real’ profile leader this afternoon to wrap it up.




know I finished early but I had a great lunch which I enjoyed and appreciated more after this experience.  I had final contact with my real life buddy and hope that conditions improve for her and all those in need.  I hope I helped to highlight the struggles of those in poverty in light of basic food needs and nutrition in particular.  There is much more work to be done! Carmen

Today was a difficult day.  It wasn’t easy going to the food bank to ask for my one week supply of food.  From the minute I pulled into the parking lot I realized that the lives of the people using the Agape Centre must be met with such mixed emotions.  First- it’s a blessing that we have the Agape centre in our city… what would we do without it?  However, it’s so overwhelming to see the people who need the services. 
I was very surprised to learn that the afternoon list of appointments for weekly food was full… so much that the workers had to squeeze in some extra people due to their personal demands and needs.
I was also a bit shocked that clients using the food bank have to go through such a rigorous screening process.  I understand that the documentation provides proof of the living circumstances etc… but it can’t be easy for a family to constantly bring in identification for every family member, as well as all the other required documentation each and every time they access food.
Having our morning appointment was helpful and I liked the fact that the receptionist and the food bank coordinator were organized and competent with regard to the Do the Math Challenge team as well as the clients who really use and need the service.  Thanks for the kind service!
The food basket is an assortment of dried, canned, and mostly packaged food.  It really isn’t appetizing… I realize that I am very well with the groceries that I am able to afford.  I missed fresh veggies today, as well as meat… wow!  I was lucky enough to receive a pound of bacon and will have to get creative with recipe ideas.  The word, CHALLENGE is definitely in my vocabulary for this week.
Signing off for now.

DAY 2-

I’ve already experienced several interesting conversations – wish you could have seen the reaction of my husband and two teenagers when they saw the food from my hamper… the term “baffled “comes to mind.  They suggested that I try to switch some of the canned goods in my hamper with brand named canned goods we have at home!  Nice try.  They are not quite grasping the importance of the challenge- yet!

Today I had a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread that had “expired” a day before I picked it up from the food bank.  I took it home, sliced it up and put it into the freezer.  I will use a couple slices per day. I wrapped it into the waxed paper that I chose at the food bank to truly experience what it would be like to not be able to afford, plastic wrap or containers.

 I also used the wax paper for my dried cereal snack.  No fresh fruit or veggies in the hamper… I wonder what those no-name, waxed beans really taste like.  I wonder if the expiry date is past. I wonder how many people go into their cupboards and give the Agape all those old cans of food…way in the back of the cupboard that never get used. 

I’m going home to cook up some bacon and an egg… maybe two (I received 6).  I can’t bring myself to open the canned waxed beans yet…

Signing off   


 “Getting a taste of poverty makes me feel sick” JSM


Day 3…

 My sister in Victoria (Yes the blog and the “Do the Math” challenge is being discussed in British Columbia) sent me the following recipe:

Cooking Hint for  Beans >> green beans try frying then in a pan with a piece of bacon broken up into tiny pieces this will add flavor and grease then crush up some crackers and sprinkled over for extra salty flavour serve and enjoy.

 I’m going to try this tomorrow.  

Today my daughter “donated” an apple and my co-worker, a pear to my food hamper.  The gesture actually struck me as something that does happen in our generous city on a regular basis… people are willing to help out other people (Does this count as cheating?). 

 The no-name macaroni and cheese mixed with a bit of bacon did not digest very well tonight.  

 I “get” the need for non-perishable, packaged food items but I am very quickly realizing that they lack nutrients, freshness and contain high fat content.

 Did folks see the article in the Standard Freeholder (October 5, 2010) written by Dr. Richard Beliveau entitled: The importance of a veggie-rich diet.  The quote that captured my attention, “To effectively prevent cancer, it is important not only to consume large quantities of vegetables, but to diversify your choices.”  

 So how does that make people feel who live on fixed incomes, food banks and non-perishable food?

 Back to the canned wax beans and peas.

 Over and out.



Hi folks,

 Many lessons have come out of this week’s “do the math” challenge:

 The food bank is very much needed in our community and I have a refreshed outlook with regard to its purpose.

  • Most prepackaged food (convenient) is not nutritious, tasty or healthy.
  • People living on fixed incomes are very limited in their ability to choose healthy, fresh and affordable food.
  • Too much starch leaves me feeling bloated, and ill. I cannot imagine eating this way in the long term.
  • I am grateful for the community profile experience- I shared a heartfelt, lengthy discussion with regard to her life that is unforgettable.
  • I look forward to meeting her for lunch next week – schedules match up best then.
  • Friends and family are supportive in times of need.  Thanks for the donated apples and recipes.

Canadians do go hungry.  We need to support our local food banks and continue to advocate the government to put some extra dollars into the monthly budgets.

I am thankful for the experience.

May all of your Thanksgiving Dinners contain some fresh produce.

Warmest regards, Jody Souka-Marleau M.A.
“Light tomorrow with today”  (E. Barrett-Browning)

Social Service Worker Program
St.Lawrence College