Why We Exist
It’s unequal. It’s not fair. It shouldn’t happen here.
When Sutton Garner was just 11 years old, she saw a news item on summer hunger. Like a lot of kids, she was both bothered by this and curious – she wanted to know why it happened and if it was happening in Calgary, her home town. She discovered that childhood hunger is real and pervasive in our city. And that it’s big and complex and heartbreaking. It affects every part of a child’s development and can have a long-lasting impact on their health and well-being. But it didn’t intimidate her. So she stepped up. And her desire for real change was the catalyst that launched I Can for Kids.
Our approach, born out of youthful optimism about changing the world, represents a major shift in how we get food to hungry children and youth. Our original mission focused on summer hunger, when children were out of school, away from school-based nutrition programs. When the pandemic hit and learning shifted to at home and online, the uncertainty of our evolving reality caused a shift in our thinking. Our focus widened. Our mission needed to be much broader than summer hunger. This was a year-long, at-home issue. Our work had to follow suit and address it year-round.
The success of our model is built on partnerships with over 25 frontline social service agencies who have direct relationships with families who are at risk and need food supports. When COVID-19 hit, we worked with our partners and other food insecurity experts to create an opportunity that would help families during the pandemic and beyond – and in doing so, we discovered something powerful.
Grocery Gift Cards and Food Supports
It didn’t take long to realize that distributing grocery gift cards presented a barrier-and stigma-free way of empowering families to purchase food that met their personal, cultural, religious, and health needs.
95% of recipient families would rather have a gift card than a food hamper.
Families tell our agency partners that receiving a gift card makes them feel trusted and respected to make good choices for their families based on their unique needs. Food hampers don’t. Recipients also shared that being able to “shop where everyone else shops” restores pride, dignity and confidence and a sense of belonging. It is simply more inclusive.
When gift cards aren’t appropriate or as timely in alleviating hunger, we offer healthy food options to meet their immediate needs – like helping street youth for example. And we’re always on the lookout for ways to collaborate and co-create with others in the food insecurity space – it’s how we can all make a greater impact on childhood hunger.
To learn more about how we impact the lives of thousands of hungry kids, please visit www.icanforkids.ca