Nearing the end of March 2020, months ahead of our usual program schedule, I Can for Kids launched three months of non-traditional operations to support thousands of kids who had been impacted by food insecurity as a result of early school closures and job loss due to COVID-19. Utilizing our existing network of frontline agency partners, we were able to move quickly and efficiently to provide grocery gift cards to children and families in Calgary. We received $550,000 in gift card value requests throughout the summer, right to the end of August. With your support we reached this incredible milestone, allowing us to successfully support 19,000+ kids in more than 136 communities across the city. We supplemented our gift cards with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with other essential basic items such as peanut butter and cereal. Because gift cards are not always an appropriate option, we also prepared and distributed 5,400 non-perishable grab and go food packs shared amongst our partners who support youth at risk (e.g. Calgary Police Service), homeless youth (e.g. The Alex Youth Health Centre), and children affected by domestic violence (e.g. Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter). Our grab and go packs provided immediate and meaningful support to kids in urgent need, while they waited for other longer-term resources to be put in place.

Although the provision of grocery gift cards was a change in our traditional food pack program, with the support of our agency partners this blended model of gift cards and food provided essential resources for thousands of children and youth this spring and summer. To our incredible volunteers and donors, thank you for helping us make positive changes this summer so we can continue to be there for those who need us most. We could not have done it without your support.

Our focus has now turned to supporting kids into the fall, helping them into the back-to-school season and beyond. An already expensive time of the year for families, COVID-19 is putting even more pressure on as the shortage of school breakfast and lunch programs are limiting access to much needed nutrition that thousands of kids depend on every day. With CERB payments coming to an end, it is about to become much more difficult for families who are already struggling. Therefore, after consulting with our agency partners and school representatives, we’ve concluded the most effective support we can offer is to ensure families have the resources they need at home for their kids whether they’re at home participating in online studies or learning while in quarantine during outbreaks, or attending in-class and needing to bring food with them to school. Regardless of their learning environment, the best support starts at home – creating dependability during unpredictability. It relieves stress on the families, the kids, and it also provides a sense of relief for teachers that are already overtasked with managing COVID in schools.

Food is fuel, but it can also bring comfort to us during stressful times. We understand the exceptional impact COVID is having on children and families and we are ready to do what we can to help. Kids need dependable access to nutrition – it is critical to healthy physical, emotional, and academic development. For that reason, donations received by I Can for Kids over the next three months will help us extend our grocery gift card program into the fall. By ensuring families have the resources they need at home, kids will be supported regardless of their learning environment which can change at a moment’s notice. Grocery gift cards allow families to purchase the food most appropriate to meet their circumstances, as well as their dietary and cultural preferences while instilling a sense of reliability, relief, pride, and dignity, important for supporting their confidence, resiliency, and sense of hope.

Our goal is to provide 3,000 $50 gift cards to children and families most in need this fall. We need your help to do that. We are already halfway to our $150,000 fundraising goal, and with your support we will be that much closer.