Grocery gift cards encourage healthier eating

Oct 17, 2021

Study participants told researchers that before receiving I Can for Kids grocery gift cards, limited finances restricted their ability to purchase fresh foods.

Over the past two e-newsletters, we’ve been sharing the preliminary findings from our University of Calgary research study funded by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, Nutrien and I Can for Kids donors. This new study, the first of its kind in Canada, is not only helping us understand how grocery gift cards help alleviate food insecurity, but also underscoring the incredible ripple effect this type of approach is having on families.

In July, we shared how I Can for Kids grocery gift cards relieved stress over household finances and household food supply. They allowed households to afford to purchase adequate, nutritious food, and also allowed them to reallocate a portion of their food budget towards other household expenses, such as rent and utilities.

In August, we took a closer look at how our grocery gift card program enhances dignity and autonomy. Caregivers could prioritize their own household needs – they shopped for their own groceries and could select foods that met their children’s unique needs, such as those that were health-related like food allergies, or cultural preferences such as Halal foods.

As if these weren’t reasons enough to support grocery gift cards, this month it gets even better. Our third finding focuses on improvements in diet quality. Study participants told researchers that before receiving I Can for Kids grocery gift cards, limited finances restricted their ability to purchase fresh foods.  Instead, they opted for pre-packaged or canned foods because they were less expensive and went on sale most often. With our grocery gift cards, households were able to purchase more fresh fruit and vegetables and reduced their intake of canned fruit and vegetables, frozen meals, and sugary snacks. Children actually requested fresh fruits and vegetables more often.

[GGC] helped us… to afford [healthy foods] all the time…there were times before I…started getting the gift card…I am just tempted to buy…things that are not healthy because…I only have a certain amount of money….But with the gift card…I’m kind of pushed towards buying more healthy stuff…” 

Tayshia, single-parent household, 1 child

Grocery gift cards enable healthier eating and improves access to more nutritious foods. This is a big deal, especially now. Food prices are at their highest levels in a decade. Gas and utilities are increasing at alarming rates. We’ve all felt it. Households with limited income feel it even more, and their decisions get harder. Heat or food? Gas to get my job or food for my family? Most of us aren’t forced into these situations, but over 70,000 children in Calgary are living in households that struggle to make these choices every day.

October is End Poverty Month. When we end poverty, we end food insecurity. That means tens of thousands of kids in our city will thrive in ways they never thought possible. Imagine that for a moment… EVERY child has the opportunity to thrive

But ending poverty is not a quick fix. We have a long way to go, but we’re getting there. I Can for kids is committed to raising awareness to the issues and advocating for long-term solutions that end food insecurity – including ending poverty. We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Our approach with grocery gift cards sets an example for how just a little more can do so much for families. The proof is in our experience over the past year and a half, and in our research study evidence and perspective from those with the lived experience

As a direct result of limited household income, too many children and youth are going hungry every day in Calgary. By working together with our diverse network of agency partners, the simplicity of a grocery gift is helping to address the complexities and consequences of living in a household with limited income. The study findings are compelling. Next month we’ll have a look at how grocery gift cards help enhance community connectedness and how recipients are receiving more than just food through our model of support.

When you donate to I Can for Kids, you’re contributing to an evidence-based approach to alleviating food insecurity and the impact of your donation goes well beyond supplying food.

It’s time to tackle childhood hunger.

We’re on it, but we need your help – our fundraising goal for 2021 is $1.4 million. Please donate today!

Learn more about who we are and how we’re impacting the lives of hungry children in Calgary,

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Bridging the gap: supporting Indigenous families facing food insecurity

Bridging the gap: supporting Indigenous families facing food insecurity

I Can for Kids (iCAN) witnesses a much higher rate of food insecurity among Indigenous families than we would expect based on the mix of different cultures living in Calgary. In 2023, our agency partners estimated that 33% of all the households who accessed our program identified as First Nations, Metis, or Inuit. In contrast, the most recent census data for Alberta shows that only 3% of all Calgarians identified as Indigenous.

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