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Hahn goes hungry: CUPE Ontario president endures one-week welfare diet to raise awareness for food banks

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn fared better than some thought when he decided to take on the “Do the Math Challenge,” a campaign designed to raise awareness of the hardships of a diet made up only of typical food hamper items.

Entering day four of a five-day challenge, Hahn had won a bet with office staff that he wouldn’t be able to tolerate the diet for more than a few days.

I think the main thing that has kept me going is knowing that it’s only [five] days,” Hahn said on his Put Food in the Budget blog on October 7th. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I feel horrible about it. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel for the close to 400,000 people using food banks every month.”

The challenge, hosted by the Social Planning Network of Ontario and the Stop Community Food Centre and supported by CUPE Ontario, seeks to demonstrate the quality of diet many of Ontario’s poorest citizens must live with.

Because of budgetary restrictions and a reliance on donations, food banks are not able to provide fresh food or produce. Clients typically receive bland, carb heavy, poor quality food.

CUPE Ontario is supporting the campaign as part of a response to cutbacks of public services by the McGuinty government. These cuts, like the decision to cancel the Special Diet Benefit for people on social assistance, have had serious effects on the quality of life for many of the poorest and most vulnerable Ontarians.