DO THE MATH-October 12 – 19, 2012

Do the Math was begun several years ago by TheStop – an activist food bank in Toronto.  TheStop found that the majority of their clients were on social assistance and that the low rates of allowance did not allow people to pay the rent and buy food.  They challenged politicians and citizens to “Do the Math” – see if they could make ends meet on social assistance rates.


  • To raise awareness of poverty and hunger, particularly the low rates of social assistance, in Hamilton and Ontario.
  • To engage students from a range of faculties across campus and use a variety of communication strategies to publicize the campaign.


The current rates for social assistance are:

  • Single person $  599
  • Single parent with one child: $1,023
  • Single parent with two children:   $1,165
  • Two parents, one child: $1,174

With average rents for a one bedroom apartment being over $610, and a two bedroom in the $750 range, there is little money left for food and other basic necessities for any of the household types.  Across the Province, this shortfall drives people to foodbanks.

In Hamilton, almost 75% of the people accessing food banks are on social assistance.  There is a significant amount of research that shows the negative effects deep poverty has on health and social well-being, not only for the individual, but for the wider community as well.

In the Do the Math challenge, students are asked to eat what a person going to a foodbank would have to eat for one week.  The McMaster Community Poverty Initiative will supply these bags to participating students.

The Current Campaign

 The Province of Ontario has appointed a Review Commission to make recommendations about reforming the social assistance system.  Their report is due out anytime now, and thus means this is an excellent time to draw attention to the issues raised by the Do the Math campaign.


   What We Are Asking For:

 1)    Five student volunteers from each faculty to take the Do the Math challenge.

 What Will the Students Be Asked To Do?

  •  Eat only the contents of the food bank sample bag for one week.
  • Take part in the Do the Math Week Activities, including:
  • Daily reflection blogs based on questions the MCPI will provide
  • Attend a tour of a local food bank
  • Choose and carry out one way of publicizing the issue of low social assistance rates (write an article for the Faculty newsletter, write a letter to your MPP, volunteer in a community agency, organize an event of your choosing, etc)
  • Talk to your friends, colleagues, and family and explain what you are doing and why.


What Will Students Receive?

 An Outstanding Student Activism Award from the McMaster Community Poverty Initiative upon completion of the challenge.


Interested students are asked to contact Jeff Wingard at