people standing with food

Four ways Campbell’s Healthy Communities initiative is making an impact

In 2011 we launched Campbell’s Healthy Communities, a 10-year, $10 million commitment to measurably improve the health of young people in our hometown of Camden, New Jersey.

We work collectively with a group of cross-sector partners to guide and implement the work, including eight core grantees: Camden Coalition of Healthcare ProvidersCenter for Environmental TransformationDelaware Valley Regional Planning CommissionFood Bank of South JerseyFoodCorpsGreater Philadelphia YMCAThe Food Trust and Wellness in the Schools.

Since we began, we’ve made significant progress. Together we:

  • Created the largest citywide network of healthy corner stores in New Jersey
  • Launched a city-wide after school sports program, Soccer for Success
  • Added salad bars, monthly food tastings, and healthy menu changes at Camden KIPP schools
  • Incorporated food insecurity screenings into hospital intake processes
  • Expanded offerings of “Cooking Matters” nutrition and culinary classes

Here are four ways this initiative has made an impact in our community this past year:

It’s making healthy food more accessible

In fiscal year 2020, Healthy Communities created 9 new food access sites, including a food pantry at KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy (KIPP) Schools in Camden to help provide food to students and families during COVID-19, and a pop-up market at River Park in partnership with The Food Bank of South Jersey. Over 125 new healthy foods were made available at food access sites, including a large expansion of fresh produce at one of our corner stores and, before the pandemic, adding an array of new offerings in cafeteria salad bars at the KIPP schools.

women packing food
Distributing food at Camden KIPP schools

It’s teaching healthier eating habits

Cooking Matters is a hands-on nutrition education and cooking experience designed to motivate young students to cook and eat real food. When the pandemic halted in-person instruction, the Healthy Communities’ team adapted Cooking Matters for virtual delivery. Recipe ingredients—most of which came directly from one of our Camden healthy corner stores—were delivered to each participant so they could follow along and create the recipes from home. In doing so, the food also helped families facing food insecurity.

The virtual adaptation was so successful it was used by New Jersey SNAP-Ed for statewide delivery.

Student participates in a virtual Cooking Matters nutrition education and cooking class from home

It’s creating safe opportunities to get kids moving

Healthy Communities created 8 new opportunities for kids to play at events like the 2019 Camden Jam, the Sports Jamboree at the Camden Kroc Center, and family events at Camden schools.

When the Target Corporation decided to fund “mini pitches” in the region, the Greater Philadelphia YMCA used their Healthy Communities Soccer for Success programming and relationships to bring the project to Camden, resulting in 3 new safe spaces to play in the city.

Amidst the pandemic, our Soccer for Success program went hybrid, with a mix of in-person and virtual programming, so we could continue to provide ways for kids to play.

It’s engaging the community and encouraging resident leadership

Healthy Communities takes a collective impact approach—a group of partners including food access organizations, health providers, and schools all working together to accomplish our goal.

Over the years, the team has been working directly with the Camden community through meetings and events, and by creating and convening groups like:

  • The Camden Youth Advisory Council: A group of high school students who are passionate about making positive change in their city and who advise the Campbell’s Healthy Communities work.
  • The Corner Store Owner Affinity Group and Corner Store Purchasing Cooperative: Groups of corner store owners who have come together to advocate for their collective needs, including technical assistance, business training, funding, and group purchasing.
  • The Camden Food Access Work Group: A group consisting of emergency food providers, community gardeners, local farmers, residents, and others to identify the biggest issues around food access in the city and brainstorm solutions.

COVID-19 has made this work more important than ever, and by having the infrastructure and organization in place already, these groups were able to meet virtually this year to continue to coordinate their strategies with stakeholders.

Learn more about our recent achievements and progress by exploring our Year 9 data.

 What’s next for Campbell’s Healthy Communities?

The 10th and final year of Healthy Communities is currently underway, and continues to support food access and distribution, nutrition education and physical activity initiatives in Camden, while navigating the effects and challenges of the pandemic.

As the initial program wraps up, we’re gearing up for what’s next, including investing in the sustainability of Healthy Communities’ food access work by becoming an anchor funder of the Fair Food Fund Camden. We’ll also be focused on improving the school food environment for children by working with nonprofit organizations, school districts and national thought leaders to improve school nutrition in Camden and other communities.

It’s all part of our long-term commitment to support our communities.  Learn more about our work in our hometowns and explore data from our Year 9 Campbell’s Healthy Communities report.