Inclusive responses to food insecurity: ensuring everyone has a place at the table

Jun 27, 2024

Inclusiveness is a core value of the I Can for Kids (iCAN) grocery gift card program. Our expansive network of agency partners enhances our inclusive approach by maximizing our ability to reach diverse households across Calgary. This enables us to extend our support to everyone regardless of culture, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, health status, and physical and cognitive ability.

In this blog, we speak to the connection between food insecurity and racial, sexual, and gender identities. Despite the many unique barriers that each of these social groups face, we chose to combine these topics into a single blog because there are so few high-quality studies to describe the experiences of food-insecure children and families within these households. We’ve also published more in-depth articles about other diverse populations at higher risk for food insecurity who access our program, including:

What’s the link between food insecurity and racial identity? 

Based on the first four years of our grocery gift card program, iCAN consistently provides support to a high proportion of racialized populations. The most recent census shows that 41% of Calgarians identify as a visible minority. Our agency partners estimate that at least 60% of the families who access our program are led by a visible minority (defined as: a person who is non-Caucasian in race or non-white in skin colour but does not include Indigenous Peoples). 

Research in Canada outlines the relationship between food insecurity and racial identity by noting how:

Experts highlight that discrimination based on culture, ethnicity, or race can have a significant impact on household income by impairing the ability to find and maintain regular employment, secure higher wages, and access promotions in the workplace. iCAN is very grateful to partner with two prominent, immigrant-serving organizations and multiple social service agencies whose reach extends to the many racialized and multicultural populations across the city. Agency staff are also well versed to help food-insecure families navigate additional programs, systems, and supports that promote well-being and enhance protection from social biases and racism. 

What’s the link between food insecurity and gender and sexual identities? 

Neither iCAN nor our agency partners can accurately track the number of food-insecure families who access our program and have one or more members from the 2SLGBTQI+ community (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex). Staff only become aware of this type of personal information if a parent or household member mentions it during ongoing interactions. Furthermore, many of our recipients are immigrants and refugees from cultures that tend to be less comfortable engaging in open discussions about sexuality and gender. For these reasons, iCAN intentionally partners with agencies whose mission, services, and intake processes never discriminate against sexual and gender minorities. 

Research into the dynamics between income and food insecurity among 2SLGBTQI+ households is still at an early stage. It can be challenging to engage enough study participants from these relatively small social groups, particularly two-spirited, intersex, transgender, and other gender minority populations. The most current municipal population profile indicates there are 4,640 transgender and non-binary individuals living in Calgary, and about two-thirds of this population are between the ages of 15 to 34 years. The latest federal census data states that among all Canadians aged 15 and older:

  • 4% (1 million people) identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or non-heterosexual
  • 0.20% (59,460 people) identify as transgender
  • 0.14% (41,355 people) identify as non-binary 

Studies in Canada have found that in contrast to heterosexual and cisgender adults:

Studies provide even less detail about the experiences and rates of food insecurity among 2SLGBTQI+ households with children. Researchers propose that these families are likely at higher risk because they face additional social barriers, such as:

  • more experiences of discrimination, aggression, and violence
  • greater struggles to find employment and secure jobs with higher salaries
  • larger hurdles to receive adequate assistance through healthcare programs
  • increased rates of denial for access to charitable services, including free food programs

Fortunately, all our agency partners welcome 2SLGBTQI+ families and can help parents and children access supports that help address or reduce social, cultural, and systemic roadblocks. 

When you donate todayyou restore a fundamental sense of community and social inclusion for food-insecure children and families in Calgary who face unjust barriers.

To join iCAN’s expanding list of donors, sponsors, and champions, check out the different ways you can get involved or donate

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

About Donald Barker

Donald Barker 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. 

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. Explore their website to discover more about iCAN’s impact over the years.

For more information and media inquiries, please contact iCAN Executive Director, Bobbi Turko at

Signup for our newsletter

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.

read more

Want to be part of the solution?