Campbell program a positive in Camden community

by Eric Schroeder
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CAMDEN, N.J. — A $10 million, 10-year plan launched last year by Campbell Soup Co. to improve the health of young people in Camden by reducing childhood obesity and hunger is yielding good results in its first year of implementation, according to the company.

When it launched the program last year, Campbell said its goal was to reduce the 40% obesity rate and hunger in Camden’s children by half. The Campbell Healthy Communities program is focused on four areas:

• Providing increased access to affordable, healthy food;
• Expanding availability of and participation in physical activity and education;
• Increasing nutrition and health education; and
• Creating public will to support demand for and the creation of a healthy community with quality food sources and safe, accessible recreation areas.

As part of the program, Campbell has funded approximately 108,000 hours of physical activity for 1,400 Camden youth — nearly 80 hours of physical activity per child.

Also during the first year Campbell has:

• Created 28 new healthy food access sites such as mobile farmer’s markets and fresh produce displays in corner stores, serving more than 12,700 residents in their neighborhoods.
• Served 850 customers by fresh mobile vending through Greensgrow Farms.
• Offered more than 400 hours of nutrition education involving 2,155 children.
• Provided cooking classes for 108 Camden classroom teachers and 391 children and families.
• Created a first-of-its kind group pre-natal mentoring and nutrition education program that was supported by Campbell employee affinity groups.
• Started “Community Conversations at Campbell,” a series of five meetings that engage community members and employees in discussions to improve food access in Camden.

“We’re beginning to make a difference to Camden’s residents, and are only at the beginning of a 10-year commitment to the health of the city’s children,” said Kim Fortunato, director of Campbell Healthy Communities. “There’s still much to do, especially since Camden’s 40% child obesity rate tops the national average of 321%. We can’t solve the problem overnight, but we’re giving Camden residents some better choices and knowledge about healthy decisions. In fact, we hope our Healthy Communities work will lay the foundation for similar programs in other Campbell hometown communities.”

In year two of the program, Campbell said it is expanding into two new charter schools, Environment Community Opportunity (ECO) Charter School at 817 Carpenter St. and D.U.E. Season Charter School at 1000 Atlantic Ave. in Camden.

As part of its Healthy Communities program, Campbell is collaborating with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The U.S. Soccer Foundation, The United Way, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden, the Camden City Garden Club and the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties, along with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Cooper, Lourdes and Virtua Hospitals, Rutgers University and the Food Bank of South Jersey.
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