Campbell’s Investment and the Evolution of the Collective

Campbell’s Investment and the Evolution of the Collective

When the Campbell Soup Company launched the Healthy Communities Initiative in 2011, it had a long-term vision that the program would evolve into something more significant than the iconic company alone could achieve.

The company, which has called Camden home for more than 150 years, cares deeply about the community and wants to make a lasting impact through a sustainable program for its residents.

That resulted in a commitment from Campbell’s of 10 years and $10 million, to reduce childhood hunger and obesity.

At the time, an estimated 13 percent of Camden’s residents were living below the poverty line. One grocery store, a few smaller stores, and a network of corner stores created the local food system. Because of its lack of access to healthy food, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority considered Camden a food desert.

When Campbell’s considered where to focus its efforts, it leaned heavily on its expertise: food.

Understanding that one organization would not be able to change hunger and improve the health of Camden’s residents single-handedly, it developed Campbell’s Healthy Communities with a collective impact framework.

The company worked with multiple organizations to develop an approach focused on four strategic areas: food access, nutrition education, physical activity, and public will to engage the community, which was critical to delivering on the program’s mission.

Campbell’s Healthy Communities’ key partners included the Food Bank of South Jersey, The Food Trust, Wellness in Schools, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, FoodCorps, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, The Greater Philadelphia YMCA, Center for Environmental Transformation, KIPP New Jersey, and Center for Family Services.

Throughout its 10 years, the Healthy Communities Initiative had great success. Some critical impacts of the program included:

Food Access

  • Created the largest network of healthy corner stores in New Jersey
  • Incorporated food insecurity screenings into hospitals

Nutrition Education

  • Expanded national, evidence-based Cooking Matters™ nutrition education classes
  • Created a culture of health across KIPP Camden Schools by placing FoodCorps service members within the schools

Physical Activity

  • Launched the first city-wide after-school sports program, Soccer for Success

Public Will

  • Integrated the voice of local youth into program strategy development through the Camden Youth Advisory Council
  • Engaged residents in issue identification and brainstorming solutions

As 10 years came to an end, the Healthy Communities partners brainstormed about how they could continue the success of the program, using what they had learned and joining together more community members, partners, funders, and government agencies.

The group went back to the idea of a collective impact approach.

The next iteration of the collective would focus on the root causes of food insecurity in the city of Camden – an area of continued need after 10 years of Healthy Communities.  Thus, the Camden Food Security Collective (CFSC) was born.

“Our partners came together to determine the sustainability plan after the formal end of the Healthy Communities program,” said Kate Barrett, President of The Campbell’s Foundation. “They determined that addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity was the biggest priority that this group was uniquely positioned to tackle.”

Campbell’s knew the importance of the community taking the lead. Its legacy would be to take a successful program, bring together nonprofit organizations that were working in the same arena toward a similar outcome, and root the CFSC in the community.

“Campbell’s is proud to have served as the initial funder of the CFSC, work that emerged from Campbell’s Healthy Communities; however, this new initiative has truly been led by the partners and residents of Camden who are best equipped to determine what is needed and how to use the funds to create a lasting impact in the city,” said Barrett.

As CFSC launched around a shared vision and objectives developed by many partners in the community, Campbell’s investment has spurred additional support from other organizations to address food security in Camden. Today, Collective members and dedicated investors are coming together to help improve food access in Camden to create sustainable change for years to come.

Collective Impact: What is it, and how does it help communities?

Collective Impact: What is it, and how does it help communities?


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller


While true that a single person or organization can make a difference on their own, what happens when two join together – or 10 or 20? The impact of teamwork grows the outcome exponentially.

And that is exactly what Collective Impact aims to achieve.

First introduced by John Kania and Mark Kramer in a 2011 article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Collective Impact is based on the idea that many of the most significant and challenging social issues – such as poverty, education, healthcare, and environmental sustainability – cannot be effectively addressed by one organization alone. Instead, they require a coordinated and collective effort involving various stakeholders to achieve true change.

How does it work? With five key pillars:

A common agenda. They work together to define the problem; then, they create a shared vision to solve it.

Shared measurement. All members must track progress in the same fashion to allow for continuous learning and accountability.

Mutually reinforcing activities. While the collective has a shared vision, its members work in different ways. All participants’ activities are thoughtfully integrated to maximize the end result.

Continuous communication. Collectives generally consist of organizations that would normally be competing for the same dollars. When

they come together, it’s important that they build trust and strengthen relationships.

A strong backbone. A collective team must be dedicated to aligning and coordinating the work of the group as one.

Collective Impact Model diagramIn order to create and maintain a sustainable collective, its members should always rely upon the following strategies, weaving them throughout the key pillars:

  • Groundwork in data and context and target solutions
  • Focus on systems change, in addition to programs and services
  • Shift power within the collaborative
  • Listen to and act with the community
  • Build equity leadership and accountability

Now that the partnering organizations have the framework set, the real work begins. While Collective Impact can make a positive contribution and help foster social change, it takes time. One study estimates that full impact can range from 4-24 years. That means the participants must be prepared to invest time, energy, and funds into ensuring its success for the betterment of the community in the long term.

However, when committed to working together toward a common goal, communities can change and flourish.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “Interesting, in theory, but how does this really help the community?”

First and most importantly, Collective Impact allows for shared responsibility. By encouraging multiple stakeholders, from nonprofit organizations to government agencies and businesses to community members, it spreads the burden and ensures that no single entity is solely responsible for solving the problem.

It also increases resources – both financial and human. When organizations work together, they can pool their resources, access new funding streams, and tap into a broader range of expertise and skills, which translates into more robust and sustainable solutions. Plus, these organizations and individuals bring their unique strengths and expertise to the table, allowing the Collective Impact initiatives to develop more comprehensive strategies.

In many cases, organizations working independently may duplicate efforts, wasting resources and time. Collective Impact promotes coordination, ensuring that activities are complementary rather than redundant.

With this common agenda and coordination, Collective Impact initiatives regularly collect data and maintain open communication; they can adapt their strategies in response to changing circumstances or new insights. This flexibility is essential for addressing complex and evolving community issues.

A key part of the Collective Impact strategy is to encourage the active involvement of community members in the decision-making process. This ensures that the solutions developed are culturally sensitive, contextually appropriate, and have the support of the affected communities.

As mentioned above, Collective Impact does not necessarily provide short-term outcomes. Instead, it’s focused on creating lasting change. By addressing the root causes of community issues and involving a variety of stakeholders, it is more likely to develop sustainable solutions that continue to benefit the community even after the initiative concludes.

And finally (and this is a big one), it allows for other communities facing similar challenges to replicate a model that worked elsewhere. Collective Impact teams can share and disseminate effective strategies and best practices with each other – whether regional, national, or even global!

Are you still with us? Of course you are (this is great stuff)!

So, right here at home, there is a Collective Impact solution aimed at addressing food insecurity.

The Camden Food Security Collective is a coordinated community of diverse stakeholders working hand in hand with community residents. Camden Food Security Collective’s members include local healthcare and food providers, public agencies, health insurance companies, community-based organizations, public officials, local corporations, business owners, safety-net food distributors, workforce system representatives, and, most importantly, Camden residents.

In order to reach a food secure future, CFSC will address both food access and supplemental food options. CFSC aims to identify solutions that will foster a robust and equitable distribution of healthy foods. For food access, CFSC will help establish a purchasing Cooperative of small business owners to support bulk purchasing, improve variety, and lower costs. This will be achieved by building upon Camden’s Corner Store Owners Association, an innovative network of Camden corner store owners developed and overseen by The Food Trust, one of CFSC’s partner organizations.

Furthermore, CFSC will strengthen the existing supplemental food network by improving coordination, logistics, and communication systems, to guarantee more frequent, equitable, and predictable access to healthy safety-net foods. One proposed program is establishing a network of “Choice Pantries” across Camden City.

Currently, a pilot led by the Food Bank of South Jersey is underway to help some food pantries move from a drive-through model back to a choice-based model. CFSC will consider opportunities to understand what choice can/should look like in terms of food selection, food availability, how/where/when people can access safety-net food sites, what other services can be provided/co-located at sites, etc. CFSC will also help sites adopt and scale these best practices, focusing on understanding what other options could create more access and awareness to residents.

Join the Camden Food Security Collective on its path to do so much together. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.