Mark Chamberlain Stepping Down as Poverty Roundtable Chair

By RTH Staff
Published December 17, 2010

Mark Chamberlain is stepping down as the chair of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction after completing a five year term in that role.

Tom Cooper, the director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, just issued a media statement noting the Poverty Roundtable's accomplishments since its founding five years ago - including a collaborative planning and investment model that has attracted national praise and a real reduction in residents living below the low income cut off - and thanking Mr. Chamberlain for his community service.

Chamberlain will remain a member of the Roundtable as it transitions to a new focus on community investing and development, supporting a Living Wage and establishing a universal school nutrition program.

Accompanying the announcement are statements of support and praise for Chamberlain from local dignitaries across the political spectrum and from all sectors across business and public service. He is widely lauded as an energetic, inspirational leader who managed to unite a broad spectrum of stakeholders around the ambitious, even visionary, goal of real, sustained poverty reduction.

The Roundtable intends to appoint a new chair in January as part of a planned restructuring of its members.


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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 12:40:36

"...establishing a universal school nutrition program."

A really good idea and overdue. The are way too many fat "poor" people in my opinion.

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By JustWords (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 13:47:17

> a real reduction in residents living below the low income cut off

Has that really happened in the last 5 years? Personally, I'd challenge that assertion.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted December 18, 2010 at 10:32:17

The drop in people living in low income in Hamilton refers to changes that occurred between the 2001 and 2006 Census. Numbers will no doubt have risen again since then.

HRPR cannot take credit for these changes (and doesn't purport to do so), but Mark Chamberlain certainly helped put poverty on the agenda in Hamilton as well as at the provincial level. In my view, HRPR's [action priorities] for the next few years ( are pretty ambitious, but exciting. Now that the awareness is there, they can try to achieve more concrete outcomes.

Comment edited by BeulahAve on 2010-12-18 09:34:23

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By Centrist (registered) | Posted December 18, 2010 at 12:30:46

Capitalist - You're right. There actually are several sociological studies linking overweight and obesity to poverty. People of lower socioeconomic status tend to have less access to resources which promote good health, and less income and time available to purchase and prepare healthier meals.
Health problems arising from overweight and obesity put a strain on the health care system, which is just one of many reasons why we need to get serious about eliminating poverty.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted December 18, 2010 at 14:36:23

Hey Centrist, let's stay open-minded...for every study there is an equal and opposite conflicting study, and this one says obesity saves us money in the long run because healthy-weight people live longer and cost us more in age-related, chronic but treatable conditions:

Of course, it's still a great idea to get serious about eliminating obesity.

More alarmingly, it's the slightly overweight people we need to worry about. They cost us 13% more per year in health care costs than a normal weight person (how does StatsCan get these numbers?!), and slightly overweight people shorten their life spans by only a few months to a year, so we are the ones who will cost the system the most in the long run. There's my New Years resolution decided for me.

Comment edited by d.knox on 2010-12-18 13:37:34

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By curious (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2010 at 00:31:25

How come in poor countries, people in poverty are not obese?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2010 at 18:24:21

curious asked: "How come in poor countries, people in poverty are not obese?"

Because they don't have "fast food".

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2010 at 10:22:57

People of lower socioeconomic status tend to have less access to resources which promote good health, and less income and time available to purchase and prepare healthier meals.

Can we promote this to the status of "old canard" yet? It's been repeated locally for several years now, greeted at first with a general round of tight-lipped frowns of sympathy, but increasingly to incredulity.

The poor - working or otherwise - have "access" to the same cheap fresh and frozen vegetables at the same downtown Food Basics, No Frills, and Farmer's Market to which you and I have "access". Vegetables require time to cook, yes - but that's something which at least the non-working poor have in abundance.

Education & the Fat Spectrum

While it's obvious, and perhaps a new truism, that people with little money and little education are more likely than average to be fat, it appears to me (and, in fact, the NIH that people with some but not much money and some but not much education tend to be fatter than those wealthier and more educated.

This trend is plainly visible among my fellow employees at McMaster University, none of whom are poor or lacking "access" to good food. The tradesmen and clerical staff are clearly heavier - on average - than (what used to be called) the "professional staff" (research assistants, programmers, department administrators, human resources), who are heavier - on average - than the faculty.

One could - as poverty activists do - ascribe the propensity towards obesity among the poor to lack of "access" to good food and lack of time to cook it, but that would not help to explain why lab technicians tend to be heavier than philosophers. Or one could whip out one's handy-dandy Occam's Razor, trim the fat as it were, and try to come up with a single explanation which encompasses the entire spectrum.

Deferred Gratification: Marshmallows and PhDs

Now, I am a (slightly overweight) computer programmer and not a philosopher or a sociologist, but I'll take a stab at an explanation (since I've still got my razor in hand): the most significant factor is the ability to defer gratification. And the ability to defer gratification can get you a PhD, a reliable spouse, or a big pot of cheap, tasty, nourishing soup. A recent New Yorker article discusses delayed gratification, success in life and the famous marshmallow experiment, in which young children were rewarded with a second marshmallow if they could refrain from immediately eating a first - and whose ability to defer enjoyment of the delicious marshmallows correlated strongly to SAT scores later in life. For the impatient, Wikipedia gets straight to the good part.

If Mark Chamberlain and the RTPR are responsible for helping to spread the "poor people are fat because they don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables" canard in Hamilton, then they are only undercutting their own cause: the argument is becoming risible, and that canard is not only a lame duck, it's a red herring.

I sincerely wish that there were fewer people suffering lives of poverty and misery and debilitating obesity. But compassionate arguments don't help when they are at odds with observable facts and more plausible (if unflattering) explanations.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-12-20 09:38:24

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 20, 2010 at 11:51:35

On a recent flight, I saw this article in Delta's 'Sky' magazine. (Hope the link works.)

It's a multi-page article, well worth reading.

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By Curious (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2010 at 00:42:36

Moylek, your explanation of 'delayed gratification" I find very plausible.
We will not make progress in the fight against poverty by making lame excuses. City officials and poverty advocates need to rise up to the challenge instead of endlessly repeating the canards that the poor have no time to shop for and make and eat nutritious food - if not for themselves then at least for their children.
Fighting poverty should be a two way street. The State must create a safety net of good health, educational,and transportation infrastructures that should be made available to the poor for FREE.
The poor must be given and should take practical courses in home economics, setting and meeting goals, job hunting, sex education and family planning, and handling finances. The poor can then take responsibility for their own upliftment once empowered with education and the safety net.

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