Building off a decade of collective work led by the Campbell Soup Company through the Campbell’s Healthy Communities program, the Camden Coalition and Food Bank of South Jersey are launching a new initiative to go deeper on issues around food security in the city of Camden.
Of the 3,675 Camden City residents who completed a food insecurity screening connected with their healthcare visit in 2020, 37% indicated that in the past 12 months they sometimes or often worried they will run out of food without the funds to purchase more, and/or the food they purchased didn’t last and they didn’t have funds to purchase more. Therefore, in February 2019, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (the Camden Coalition) began conversations with executives from seven organizations involved in food access to ask, “why?”
This prompted dialogue aimed at further examining and addressing issues around food security and equity in the city of Camden. The conclusion was that food insecurity persists because we have yet to solve affordability and the impacts of structural racism.
Affordability and structural racism are challenges in Camden for several reasons.
Camden has an abundance of dedicated community-based organizations who have innovated to close some of these gaps through nutrition education, food assistance programs, and wrap-around social services.
Within our Campbell’s Healthy Communities (CHC) collective, members like the Food Trust have provided technical assistance to more than 40 corner stores to become “Healthy Corner Stores.” Others have partnered with Parkside Business & Community in Partnership (PBCIP) to leverage new funding in support of the development of more local produce growers to supply a food prescription program at Virtua Hospital.
In the Camden food ecosystem, organizations like Cathedral Kitchen are training residents in their culinary program while serving the needs of people experiencing homelessness. These are just a few of the community assets to build upon.
This Camden Food Security Collective is organizing these and other stakeholders to build on the work of the last 10 years and harness our collective power for system and policy changes that accompany the direct service we all excel at delivering.
Led by co-backbone partners, Camden Coalition and Food Bank of South Jersey, the Camden Food Security Collective is a coordinated community that fosters food security through structural equity, and seeks to engage a broad set of stakeholders to address the upstream causes of food security in Camden and create equitable, lasting solutions for food security in Camden by 2031.
The work of the Camden Food Security Collective seeks to go beyond addressing one of the most fundamental human needs, which is having FOOD, to tackling the ramifications of poverty-induced food insecurity and ushering in a new narrative of a thriving, stable community with access to ample healthy, nutritious foods.
The Collective Impact Model
Organized under the Collective Impact Framework, this framework supports collaborative cross-sector partnerships that address complex social and environmental challenges.
It is built around: (1) A common agenda; (2) Shared measurement; (3) Mutually reinforcing activities; (4) Continuous communication; and (5) A strong backbone. It promotes inclusivity and an equitable balance of power that harness optimal solutions emerging from the community itself. The adoption of the Collective Impact framework to solve Camden City’s food insecurity crisis is a demonstration of the commitment to create true, lasting, and meaningful change.
Through this model, we can achieve an audacious goal in the next 10 years, which is greater than the sum of our parts.
What is our Common Agenda?
The Camden Food Security Collective is a coordinated community that fosters food security through structural equity. We seek to engage with a broad set of stakeholders, led by community residents, health and food systems, and public agencies, to address the upstream causes of food insecurity in Camden and create equitable, lasting solutions by 2031.
INCREASE FOOD SECURITY AND EQUITY IN CAMDEN
Co-locate multiple services at neighborhood sites where residents facilitate engagement.
INCREASE RESIDENTS’ FINANCIAL SECURITY
Design a workforce pipeline with accompanying training and placement for stable jobs with family-sustaining wages.
Increase connections to, and value of, benefits like SNAP/WIC.
Advocate for more affordable housing resources and integrate navigation at Hubs.
TRANSFORM THE LOCAL FOOD ECONOMY
Create a corner store purchasing cooperative to support bulk purchasing, improve variety, and lower cost.
Coordinate consistent schedule of supplemental food distributions to increase access and equity.
Moving Forward Towards a Food Secure Future
The Collective’s common agenda identified a three-pillar strategic approach to addressing the upstream drivers of food insecurity. The first pillar of the common agenda is Co-locating Community Resources, which centers on the establishment of resourceful neighborhood-centric community hubs that reduce transportation barriers and thereby increase access to an array of benefits and health and social services. The second pillar is Increase Residents’ Financial Security by focusing on areas of workforce development and employment, improved access to and sufficiency of public benefits (e.g. SNAP and WIC), and addressing access to affordable housing through resource navigation and advocacy efforts. The third pillar is Transforming Local Food Economy through establishing a purchasing cooperative for small, local food retailers- including Camden’s network of Healthy Corner Stores (an initiative supported by Collective member, The Food Trust) and strengthening the existing supplemental food network by improving coordination and communication access the system to drive more equitable and predictable access to healthy safety-net food.