2020 Summer Food Program University of Calgary Research Study

I Can for Kids Foundation has announced their participation and support of an important qualitative research study by the University of Calgary. The study is being funded by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and their Research Program for Vulnerable Populations, as well as Nutrien, and I Can for Kids donors.

About the University of Calgary and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health

The Research Program for Vulnerable Populations is designed to help launch promising new research or knowledge translation activities. The purpose of the grant is to partner with respected community agencies, to develop and test innovative approaches to lessen social vulnerability, improve coordination of care, and enhance health overall for socially vulnerable populations.

About the I Can for Kids study

Since its early days, I Can for Kids has relied on a body of American evidence that indicated summer meal programs can reduce food insecurity and improve diet quality and academic outcomes in children. Based on knowledge and guidance from frontline agency partners and local food security experts, we have endeavoured to provide the most meaningful program for vulnerable children and youth. However, as a result of a number of challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, I Can for Kids transitioned to a majority grocery gift card model in March 2020 which was met with exceptional success.

The nature of the University of Calgary’s research is unique and the first of its kind in Canada because it focuses on an income-based response to food insecurity in the form of grocery gift cards, rather than a food provision approach. The primary cause of household food insecurity is a lack of income to buy enough food, yet nearly all programs and services try to address this significant health issue by providing food instead of improving access to income.

The study is designed to help understand how receiving additional income in the form of grocery gift cards from I Can for Kids has impacted children and their families and their experience of food insecurity. In addition, the study will examine how grocery gift cards compare to food hampers in helping to alleviate children’s experiences of food insecurity, and how these approaches can be improved. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, the study also explores how COVID-19 has impacted families’ experiences of food insecurity, and how grocery gift cards from I Can for Kids may have helped alleviate these experiences.

Expected impact of the study

Approved by the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board and directed by a team of respected researchers, findings from this study will help inform I Can for Kids and their partner agencies of the best/preferred approach to meet children’s needs for food.  It will identify to what extent I Can for Kids is helping to alleviate children’s experiences of food insecurity and to thereby improve children’s social, physical and mental health. It will examine how a grocery gift card model is helping to alleviate children’s experiences of food insecurity and may thereby lessen their social vulnerability (e.g. inadequate nutrition limits children’s academic achievement, leading to low adult educational attainment).  It will also inform program adjustments to ensure that I Can for Kids can achieve its aims of alleviating children’s experiences of food insecurity, thereby supporting population health over the long term.

The study will provide unique Canadian data regarding the lived experiences of food-insecure children and households who receive income-based support from an organization such as I Can for Kids. The outcomes of the study have the potential to create a novel, highly consequential, and innovative perspective on the potential for charitable food programs to transition towards an income-based approach to more effectively alleviate food insecurity among children in Canada. Interviews are being conducted in late-August with initial results expected by late-Fall of 2020.

About I Can for Kids

I Can for Kids Foundation supports children and youth impacted by hunger over the summer break. By working closely with frontline agency partners and local experts, I Can for Kids has developed a unique understanding of local kids’ evolving needs and a unique approach to meet their needs. We are thoughtful in our approach, committed to quality, and focused on giving kids better access to the food they need with a greater sense of dignity and belonging.

Bobbi Turko
Executive Director and Co-founder
I Can for Kids Foundation
(403) 815-9604

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