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
If you refer to the issue only as “hunger” you come up with “supply food” as the only solution. Household food insecurity refers to the inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints. Over 50,000 children and youth go hungry in our city right now because of food insecurity. Our vision is a community where that doesn’t happen anymore.
We use a powerful combination of grocery gift cards, nutritious “emergency” food packs and a large network of frontline social service agencies to support families struggling with food insecurity. We’re focused on giving families the opportunity to choose foods appropriate to their personal and cultural needs. Our approach offers a greater sense of dignity and belonging.
The success of our model is based on relationships with more than 25 frontline social service agency partners who have direct contact with families living with food insecurity – they help identify and support those most in need. Grocery gift cards allow families to “shop where everyone else shops” for greater choice, greater belonging. We also provide fresh fruit, vegetables and nutritious “quick” foods to children and youth who need them NOW.
LONG-TERM DESIRED OUTCOME
We don’t just want to become another food support charity. We collaborate with agencies who advocate for long-term strategies that address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity. We endeavour to identify opportunities to work with others to improve access to healthy food to help build a community where no child goes hungry.
OUR 2020 RESULTS
Some of the results from a traumatic year of change:
• 28,000+ children and youth fed
• $714,000 in grocery gift card value distributed
• 2,000+ jars of peanut butter
• 730+ cases of fresh fruit & vegetables
• 5,400 grab & go food packs
Our agency partners include:
BowWest Community Resource Centre
Calgary Housing Company
Calgary Police Service
Calgary Police Youth Foundation
Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
Centre for Newcomers
Children’s Cottage Society
Closer to Home
Community Kitchen Program of Calgary
Cornerstone Youth Centre
Deer Park United Church
Grace Presbyterian Church
Hull Services – Patch Program
Metis Calgary Family Services
Oak Park Church
SE Calgary Community Resource Centre
The Alex Youth Health Centre
The Brenda Strafford Centre
The City of Calgary – Neighborhoods
The Women’s Centre of Calgary
Umoja Community Mosaic
Women In Need Society
Wood’s Homes – EXIT Youth Hub
Youth Centres of Calgary
We’re always on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate and co-create with others. For example, in 2021 we’re working in partnership The City of Calgary’s Kids Cooking program in Marlborough that helps address immediate food insecurity while fostering practical cooking skills as well as learning skills such as public speaking, planning and peer-teaching.
We pride ourselves on a simple and efficient business model that delivers a critical service to thousands of vulnerable kids in the community.
Step 1: FUNDRAISE
It all starts with the generosity of our corporate sponsors, donors and grant funders to support our work, as well as a dedicated team of volunteers who manage many aspects of the organization and program delivery.
Step 2: BUILD PARTNERSHIPS
Next, we build partnerships with frontline agency partners (over 25 to date), food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. They are the supply, distribution and redemption channels for us – whether for grocery gift cards or food packs and fresh produce.
Step 3: BUY WHAT WE NEED
If it’s not donated, we purchase grocery gift cards and emergency food items for food packs.
Step 4: ACTIVATE THE NETWORK
We’re in constant contact with our agency partners. We learn what’s needed, when and where, and respond with meaningful support.
Step 5: COLLABORATE
We identify opportunities to work with like-minded agencies to improve access to healthy food in high-needs communities.
Step 6: KEEP IT UP ALL YEAR LONG
The pandemic shifted our focus and opened our eyes to the wider problem of food insecurity. Now we’re on a mission to get food supports to families year-round.
Our summer hunger journey in 2015 has evolved to year-round support.
Our approach is far more effective than the traditional models, but it will take considerable investment from the community to meet the needs of hungry kids across the city.
Our 2021 fundraising goal is $1.4 million.
Here’s how you can help: