Building a Movement for Health

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s “Special Diet” campaign (CANADA)

Region: North America

Year: 2016

Source: Contribution for manual

Author(s): OCAP

Summary: As the crisis of food poverty and hunger intensified, in 2004, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) came across a benefit called the Special Diet, that provided up to $250 a month per person but had to be required by a health professional. With the support of health care providers (who later formed a group known as Health Providers Against Poverty and became key political allies), OCAP began organizing to sign people up in large numbers for the Special Diet. The authorities then tried to reject many applications, but OCAP followed each one closely to make sure they were accepted. People from many poor communities and neighbourhoods within Toronto joined the fight. The legislation was then tightened but the action did not stop; some health professionals faced disciplinary investigation. A plan by the Liberals to eliminate the benefit was stopped by protest, but restrictions to the programme continued and eventually the campaign was no longer able to continue. Overall, the campaign was very successfull in dramatically increasing access to the benefit by poor people.

For more information on this experience, please write to John Clarke at

Key practices: advocacy, campaigns, communication; participation, community action; alliances and cooperation

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