When we eradicate poverty, we eradicate childhood food insecurity.

On Monday, October 17th, the United Nations (UN) will host the annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It’s no surprise that the UN schedules this event immediately following their efforts to raise awareness about food insecurity on World Food Day. The primary cause of food insecurity is a lack of income and the best solution is to implement tactics that alleviate poverty. 

In Calgary, the mayor has proclaimed October 2022 as End Poverty Month to encourage participation in poverty reduction efforts. Prior to the pandemic, the rate of poverty in Alberta was slowly declining. However, the ever-growing demand for the I Can for Kids (iCAN) grocery gift card program doesn’t mirror this downward trend in the least. We continually receive requests for greater support from the agency partners who target our program to food-insecure families. In fact, we tripled our fundraising goal this year to enable us to expand our services to the frontline agencies who joined our wait list.

A current report on childhood poverty in Alberta shows that nearly 20% of kids live in a home that lacks the finances to make ends meet. This statistic corresponds with the 1 in 5 children across the province who live in food-insecure households. An analysis of poverty in Calgary shows that 15% of the population lives below or just above the poverty line. The most impoverished groups in our city directly reflect the types of families who access our grocery gift card program:

  • single parents
  • immigrants and refugees
  • visible minorities
  • Indigenous households 
  • low-wage workers
  • intermittently employed and under-employed parents

Fortunately, research shows that we can reduce food insecurity through responses that target income. This is why iCAN transitioned away from food provision to implement grocery gift cards as our sole vehicle for support. We knew this change would be a more effective way to address economic barriers and ease the negative impact of escalating inflation.

Our research with the University of Calgary demonstrates how our new model helps reduce financial distress, particularly when a household must choose whether to pay rent or buy groceries. We’d like to share a few client stories that highlight the benefit of focusing on an income-based response to alleviate food insecurity:   

  • A single mother shared how: “This past year has been merciless for many people and extremely hard financially. With the cost of food increasing significantly, I would not have made it through some months without the help of I Can for Kids.” 
  • A young couple with low-wage jobs notified us that: “The grocery gift cards helped our family get through the year, which was financially hard for us. Each card went to snacks for our toddler and food for our baby. Thank you so much.” 
  • A food-insecure student in grade four sent us a note to say: “Thank you for helping families who are struggling right now. Without the food, I will not be healthy.”

In a time of such great economic uncertainty, you can help support low-income and food-insecure families to buy their kids the healthy foods they need and enjoy. 

To join iCAN’s expanding list of 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 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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