Our Grocery Gift Card Program

We target childhood food insecurity.
All year long.

We started out trying to fill a gap in the food system: summer hunger.

But now we empower food-insecure children and families to feed themselves.

Our approach represents an innovative shift in how we get food to hungry kids.

We deliver our support by partnering with frontline service agencies who can target and distribute grocery gift cards to food-insecure families. This approach strengthens relationships because caregivers recognize that we trust them to make good choices for their household. A simple plastic card becomes a more empathetic response to a very traumatic experience.

Why grocery gift cards work

Empowerment

Families can choose the foods they purchase food to meet their personal, cultural, religious, and health needs.

Access

Finding ways to get food hampers can be challenging. Grocery gift cards give families access to stores closer to home.

efficiency

Agency partners can more easily distribute grocery gift cards to  families in need, increasing our reach and impact.

Dignity

Families experience no stigma, shame, or judgment when using grocery gift cards.

Research supports our shift to grocery gift cards

In 2020, researchers from the University of Calgary and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health’s Research Program for Vulnerable Populations conducted a robust study with our agency partners who distribute the grocery gift cards and the households who receive our cards. The research interviews explored the impact of our grocery gift card program on agencies and recipients.

We used to feed hungy kids…

For over 40 years, giving food to hungry children and families was considered the solution to food insecurity. But it’s fraught with unintended negative consequences. It dictates what they get to eat without giving them much of a choice. And it doesn’t even begin to address the underlying cause.

Our journey

It started with “Why?”

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Like a lot of kids, when Sutton Garner, then 11, first learned about summer hunger she was bothered. And curious. When she found out that it was a problem in her city, she set out to do something about it. This was the catalyst that launched I Can for Kids.

Early adopters

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That first year, when Sutton presented her case to management at Save-On-Foods she won them over with her message of hope and her drive for change. They continue to support her dream as part of their commitment to help feed hungry kids.

Working with experts

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Our founding model is based on relationships with more than 25 frontline service agency partners who have direct contact with families living with food insecurity. They provide us with regular feedback from their clients.

Our PIVOT

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COVID-19 disrupted our food supply chain. Protocols shut down our facility and prevented our volunteers from assembling food packs. Our robust distribution system meant we didn’t have to miss a beat – we immediately pivoted to grocery gift cards.

Validation

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Our research with the University of Calgary and our evaluation with agency partners demonstrated many notable advantages of our grocer gift card program compared to free food hampers.

Looking forward

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We will continue to distribute grocery gift cards as our sole vehicle of support for food-insecure families. This approach has proven to be a much more dignified, relational, and efficient model. We will now focus our energy on enhancing the program’s sustainability, reach, and impact by strengthening new and ongoing partnerships and collaborations. 

My oldest has some mental health issues and so red dyes are very poor for her, and so with a healthier diet I’ve actually been able to take her off some of her medication and keep the red dyes out of our home.

cindy, single parent, 3 children

We’re making an impact.

Since we started providing grocery gift cards in 2020:

34,000+

food-insecure kids fed – it’s amazing but we still need to do more

177

communities reached with help from more than 25 of our frontline agency partners

$1.9m+

in grocery gift cards were distributed to families most in need

Our innovative work will feed more kids and help make an impact on food insecurity.

None of that can happen without donors like you.