Regional Emergency Response Council Emergency
Grocery Gift Card


Funding: This initiative was made possible with the funding from Social and Housing Services, the Social Serviced Relief Fund.

Agency Referrals: On July 21st 2021 an email was sent to community agencies announcing that in lieu of a 6th round of emergency food hampers the RERC would be providing grocery store gift cards to clients in need. Agencies were asked to submit a password protected excel sheet with the first initial, last name, phone number and address and apartment number of clients they were referring. Clients had the choice of grocery stores in order to ensure they were receiving cards for the store the most convenient for them. For the first time, we introduced a 3rd household size of Large Family which was a household of 6 or more people.  The received client lists were then cross referenced to find any duplications.


Self Referrals: There were no self referrals for this round as we anticipated an enormous request if we advertised. Rather, Stephanie Beauvais, Administration and Project Assistant for the Social Development Council contacted the over 200 previous self referrals to offer them the gift card assistance.

The Gift Cards: The gift cards were purchased from the following grocery stores:

  • Giant Tiger
  • Food Basics
  • FreshCo
  • No Frill
  • Independent Grocer
  • Valu-Mart
  • Food Land
  • Henderson’s Grocery

Cards for Single/Double households were $50.00, families received $70.00 and large families received $85.00

Project by the numbers:
2020 households were served. 11159 Single/double households, 655 families and 206 large families. Below you will find the breakdown by agency.

Agency Name Single Family Large Family Total households Percentage of total Served
Akwesasne Child and Family Services 2 7 9 18 0.89%
Assertive Community Treatment Team 27 3 1 31 1.53%
Association des femmes immigrantes francophones Cornwall-SDG 2 13 8 23 1.14%
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cornwall and District 1 14 6 21 1.04%
Canadian Mental Health Association 179 46 85 310 15.35%
Carefor Health & Community Services 53 5 0 58 2.87%
Cente 105 88 17 0 105 5.20%
Centre de santé communautaire de l’Estrie – Cornwall 18 6 0 24 1.19%
Children’s Aid Society Of SDG 28 114 17 159 7.87%
Community Addictions and Mental Health Services 1 2 0 3 0.15%
Community Living Glengarry 16 0 0 16 0.79%
Community Living Stormont County 14 4 0 18 0.89%
Community Withdrawal Management Services 4 1   5 0.25%
Cornwall and Area Housing Corporation 4 55 12 71 3.51%
Cornwall Hospice 11 4 0 15 0.74%
Cornwall Police Services 0 2 1 3 0.15%
Dundas County Hospice 11 0 0 11 0.54%
Équipe psycho-sociale 6 9 3 18 0.89%
Flexible Assertive Community Treatment Team for Persons Dually Diagnosed (FACTT-DD) 3 0 0 3 0.15%
Glengarry Interagency Group – Seniors Program 10 13   23 1.14%
Glengarry Interagency Group – Youth in Transition 8 1 0 9 0.45%
Health Link 9 2 0 11 0.54%
House of Lazarus 19 18 3 40 1.98%
Inspire Community Support Services 57 28 3 88 4.36%
J.W. MacIntosh Community Support Services 1 4 0 5 0.25%
Job Zone d’emploi 1 0 1 2 0.10%
Koala Place 0 4 1 5 0.25%
L’Association des communautés francophones de l’Ontario, de Stormont, Dundas et Glengarry 2 9 11 22 1.09%
Laurencrest Youth Services Inc 1 5 3 9 0.45%
Maxville Manor 23 1   24 1.19%
Newcomer Employment & Welcome Services 7 3 5 15 0.74%
Ontario Disability Support Program 2 1 0 3 0.15%
Organisation Horizon Jeunesse Démunie 14 17 4 35 1.73%
OSPCA (Linda Selkirk) 39 9 0 48 2.38%
Parole and Probation 4 10 0 14 0.69%
Seaway Valley Community Health Centre 166 33 3 202 10.00%
Self-Referrals 174 70 14 258 12.77%
Sexual Assault Support Services SDG&A 8 15 1 24 1.19%
Social and Housing Services 106 79 3 188 9.31%
Unity Street Help Cornwall 23 8 11 42 2.08%
Vista Centre Brain Injury Services 4 0 0 4 0.20%
York Center 12 18 1 31 1.53%
Youth Justice Services 1 4 0 5 0.25%
Youth Now 0 1 0 1 0.05%
Total 1159 655 206 2020 100.00%

Evaluation: Considering this is the first time the RERC conducts gift cards instead of food hampers, a survey was conducted in the weeks following the distribution of the cards to evaluate the experience and measure the success of this initiative.

 The survey was sent to 65 case workers and agency leads who had referred clients to the gift card. 45 responses from 28 different agencies were received.

Here is a brief overview of the key findings:

  • Within one week of having received the cards, 77.8% participating agencies indicated that most of their cards had already been distributed.
  • 9% of the cards given to agencies were delivered directly to the client, the remainder were collected by the client at the respective agency.
  • 6% of respondents indicated preferring Gift Card distribution in the future. Only 8.9% of respondents indicated preferring the distribution of traditional food hampers.

 A request was made by the members of the RERC on the September 2nd, 2021, meeting to consider returning to the traditional distribution of food hampers if and when we ever found ourselves in a total lockdown situation again, and that recommendations by public health were again advising the elderly, or other vulnerable individuals to remain at home.

Other comments collected during the survey were the following:

Every client that I have given the gift card to has much appreciated it. This was a great process.
We truly appreciate the opportunity to participate in this operation.
Clients are very thankful for the extra help. Able to spend a little more to get children ready for school . Came a perfect time .
I delivered cards to clients and they were very appreciative and thankful. This initiative helped my struggling families with food and school supplies
We loved this idea! I loved that they were able to pick the store they were wanting and able to get exactly what they needed at such a crazy busy time when you need so many different things. I have heard the same feedback from my clientele also
This is a great opportunity to give to our clients to choose a place they wish and be able to use the $ in how they wish at the store.
Not one!
100% of my clients received their cards within 2 days. They were all VERY VERY pleased with the prepaid grocery card. With the card they can purchase the items they prefer as well as the quantity of the items that best suits them. For my clients in the High Risk Senior Program, they have scheduled visits that include staff completing their groceries for them. So for these clients the cards worked very well.
Centre 105 is an interesting agency when it comes to food hampers / gift cards, as we are a drop-in program. We have some participants who come every time we are open, while others use our services only when needed. This becomes difficult when registering participants for a food hamper or gift card, as they might not be present during the days when we sign clients up. Also, the contact information for our participants, (phone numbers, addresses), change all time. We have to re-register clients each round of food hampers / gift cards, as many individuals have moved or changed numbers.


One worry that our staff had regarding gift cards was that some clients would sell them. We have heard of a few instances where gift cards have been sold for cash.


It becomes difficult to manage the gift cards, when clients are unaware of which agency they will be receiving a gift card from.


For example:

Client A registers for a gift card through Centre 105, on a day when we are registering clients to receive a gift card. Client A is removed from Centre 105’s list of people to receive a gift card, as they are receiving a card from a different agency. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing what agency they will be receiving a card from, which can be upsetting for the client.

We found the gift cards easier for us as we do not have staff or volunteers available to help move the boxes and needed to rent vans/uhauls to transport the boxes back and forth. Families also had a hard time picking up the boxes, so would sometimes refuse in the end or not show as they had no one to come lift it or transport if they had no vehicle. We did end up making sure all boxes were given to clients of ours, just a lot of convincing/calling around.


Gift cards are definitely more accessible for all families. It would have been nice too if the amount on these cards matched the amount of cost of food that they received in the other rounds.


Overall a much better experience for everyone.

It was a great idea. All our cards have been distributed to the people we support. We thank you.
“everyone appreciated the gift card and option to make their own choices”
Very positive experience for our clients and also provided our clients with a sense of pride to be able to go and do their own grocery.
All recipients were very pleased and thankful to receive the gifts cards
The tenants are all extremely happy to receive the help. Gift cards are easier to deliver.
Love the gift cards as clients can purchase items that they need/want rather than things they may not use due to preference or dietary restrictions
The clients that have picked up so far are so thankful to be able to get extra groceries and others say it will help them get  snacks and lunch items for back to school. Receiving very positive feedback . 🙂
none, think it was a great initiative. no stigma or bias attached.
It was definitely much easier to store/deliver.
Will be able to purchase meat or more items for their diet.   All have been very thankful for being able to have more food.  Thank you.
Gift cards are an EXCELLENT way to support clients regularly and in times of crisis. It allows for an opportunity to connect with folks who may otherwise be more difficult to reach or incentivize to seek support. It also allows for flexibility, dignity and freedom of choice when purchasing groceries that suit their families’ or their needs. Finally, it’s easier for service providers to distribute logistically. Thank you so much for all the hard work and organization that went into the food hamper and gift card initiatives.
ALWAYS very well organized. Delivery of gift cards took place on time as indicated. Families were grateful to be able to purchase items geared to their needs at that moment; less waste. Always appears so seamless but know the hard work it takes and for that we are grateful for this opportunity :)! THANK YOU!!
Gift cards are a great idea. This allows our clients to purchase items they like.
Much better solution as people can purchase what they need due to their food preferences
I prefer this then the baskets.  Individuals can choose what they or their family need
This was an easy stress free way to provide clients in need of some help.  I have zero complaints about using this service.  I thank Carilyne for distributing all of the cards.
My clients were very appreciative of the gift cards.
It was a great resource to be able to share with clients.

The flow and process of everything was organized and flawless.

Love the gift cards – thank you very much

Gift cards are much easier to manage

People with dietary restrictions are very happy to have choices that are allowable for them.  Everyone still indicated they were grateful for the boxes/hampers as well, but this was a great change.  Allowing a choice of stores that recipients may prefer worked well also from both geographical and dietary perspectives.   The gift cards eliminated the issue with urgent pick-ups due to perishables in the past.   As we head into colder and wintry weather, cards would prevent issues with transportation/loading etc. in bad conditions.
Clients were very thankful.
Wonderful initiative to assist those in need.
more trust in organizations that serve customers
This was much easier to manage then the physical food hampers, and also allowed for clients to use this in more customized ways (dietary restrictions, get extra protein ect)
Clients were extremely satisfied with gift cards due to dietary needs and restrictions in comparison to food hampers. Particularly clients with dairy restrictions. It was a great initiative and very much appreciated during this time of great need.
love them! people can get things they will really want as opposed to a set kit
It was an integral element in our clients receiving essential nutritional needs. Without it, some clients do not eat for days. It was an amazing program that helped many and much appreciated by clients and organizations alike. Can’t thank you enough!
My client was very happy to receive this as it will help with diapers and groceries
Clients were very thankful
All around positive feed back and much needed in our community for those in need.