Rising costs squeeze food budgets for hungry families and for those helping to feed them
“When you’re able to go out and pick out your own food, it just makes you feel human.”
“My oldest child has some mental-health issues and so red dyes are very poor for her. With grocery gift cards, I’ve actually been able to take her off some of her medication and keep the red dyes out of the home.”
It was a pivot, an initially desperate move to keep helping the city’s most vulnerable kids during a time when people were forced to stay apart, and food supply chains were disrupted.
In the summer of 2020, Bobbi Turko and her then 16-year-old daughter, Sutton Garner, co-founders of I Can for Kids Foundation, radically changed how they ensured children facing food insecurity would get properly fed. They couldn’t have known then what a genius move it was.
Along with hearing comments such as the above two from grateful clients, the Turkos also got some hard data to back up the new winning approach.
“The University of Calgary approached us last year about studying our summer program,” she says of the shift from food delivery to delivering grocery gift cards. “The results were overwhelmingly positive, showing that it had a far greater impact. If it weren’t for COVID-19, we never would have tried it.”
Turko finds those needy school-aged kids with the help of a network of agency partners, providing nearly a quarter of a million meals since her charity’s inception in 2017. This year, I Can for Kids’ grocery gift card program became a year-round endeavour.
“We are able to actually boost families’ social, physical and financial well-being, in ways we couldn’t achieve by just providing food,” she says. “And that’s a good thing, because the need has never been greater.”
I Can For Kids is one of several Calgary social agencies being featured in the 2022 Christmas Fund. Every weekend during the month of December leading up to Christmas Day, Postmedia will highlight a variety of social issues in our city and show how, through the generosity of our readers, we can all make a difference in helping our fellow Calgarians, including some of the city’s most vulnerable.