Imagine if you lost everything.

That’s what we hear from 100 distressed families every week when they arrive in Calgary after fleeing the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Most of the parents are protecting multiple children but have no resources or place to live. There is an urgent and ongoing need to help them access healthy food, shelter, clothing, employment, and other essentials.

Three parishes in Calgary established the Ukrainian Humanitarian Aid Committee (UHAC) to mobilize an immediate and coordinated response. They partner with numerous immigrant and social services agencies across the city. UHAC immediately reached out to I Can for Kids (iCAN) to respond to the urgent need for grocery gift cards. We’re very honoured to play a supporting role in this lifesaving cause.

iCAN has supported thousands of evacuees over the past four months as they resettle in many different neighbourhoods. In Calgary alone, more than 800 Ukrainian children will enter the school system this year. Our grocery gift cards enable parents to pack traditional lunches that comfort their kids as they navigate their new world.  

We still need your help. We’re just halfway to achieving our goal of $250,000 to ensure we can continue to offer support to future evacuees as they arrive. 

Thanks to our generous donors, we have already distributed $100,000 in grocery gift cards to thousands of Ukrainians who experience massive shock, anxiety, and grief. Food is deeply personal, emotional, and spiritual. One of the most effective ways we can build hope, resilience, and stability is to ensure all evacuees have the power and dignity to choose familiar foods in the midst of total life disruption. 

Our research shows that our grocery gift card program empowers the evacuees to:

  • choose specific foods that meet their cultural, religious, and health needs
  • integrate more quickly into their new communities and the local food system
  • shop at a time and a store location that best align with their energy levels, current home address, access to transportation, and hectic schedules
  • develop a greater sense of hope, social inclusion, resilience, and confidence

One of our donors recently shared helpful insight: “The Ukrainian evacuee we hosted for a few weeks decided to apply to a food program. It wasn’t an easy or convenient location to access and she could not get there on her own. So, we drove her. Because of the program’s schedule restrictions, she missed her first pick-up and had to come back the following week. Although she graciously accepted a hamper, it was filled with food that wasn’t aligned with her eating style and some of it was already expired, including the bread. How brilliant the gift cards are for her!”

With your support, iCAN can expand our dignified approach to show respect and compassion for the struggles of the thousands of evacuees who now call Calgary their home. 

To learn more about I Can for Kids and their unique approach to childhood food insecurity, visit www.icanforkids.ca 

About Donald Barker

Donald has worked as a registered dietitian for more than 25 years. He also has a professional background in communications and has long advocated for populations who face adverse, unjust, or systemic barriers that lead to higher rates of poor social, mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes. Donald currently volunteers as an Advisor with iCAN to support our transition towards evidence-based approaches that help improve the well-being of children in Calgary who live in low-income and food-insecure households. You can learn more about Donald at www.synthesist.pro  

About I Can for Kids Foundation

I Can for Kids works closely with multiple agency partners to target and distribute grocery gift cards to food-insecure families who are most in need. The iCAN grocery gift card program is a more dignified and inclusive approach to dealing with food insecurity, allowing families to shop where everyone else shops and to choose foods that are appropriate for their health and cultural needs. Last year, iCAN supported more than 34,000 children across Calgary.

For more information and media inquiries, please contact iCAN Executive Director, Bobbi Turko at bobbi@icanforkids.ca.

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