The initial run from last year’s harvest supported the food bank’s nine hunger relief programs serving 171,000 food insecure residents in southern New Jersey.
The Civic 50, a groundbreaking initiative launched in 2012 by the National Conference on Citizenship, Points of Light and Bloomberg News, identified the top 50 community-minded S&P 500 corporations that best use their time, talent, and resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business. The ranking is based on seven dimensions - community partnerships, measurement and strategy, leadership, design, employee and civic growth, cause alignment, and transparency.
In part six, Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the National Conference on Citizenship, decodes the sixth dimension: design.
The Food Bank of South Jersey faced two serious problems during winter 2012 – an increase in requests for food assistance from residents of the Camden, N.J. area hurting for jobs and, at the same time, a decrease in state and federal funding, making it harder to meet demand.
“Then we learned that local farmers were tossing something like a million pounds of peaches each growing season,” said Food Bank of South Jersey CEO Val Traore, “the ones maybe a millimeter too small or with one or two blemishes” that put them in supermarkets’ reject bins. “We told them, ‘Hey, stop doing that! We have 170,000 people in South Jersey who would love those peaches!’”
Peaches Come to the Rescue
To help save the peaches and the food bank, Traore turned to Amanda Bauman, senior manager of community affairs at Campbell Soup Company, which is headquartered in Camden and has partnered with the food bank for more than a decade. “We said let’s somehow turn some of these peaches into a shelf-stable product we can sell to raise money for the food bank,” Traore continued. “They immediately embraced the idea.”
Just six months later, a Camden plant that Campbell normally uses to test small batches of new products was turning out more than 40,000 one-pound jars of Just Peachy salsa, a tangy blend of peach chunks, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and vinegar.
“It’s low sugar, low salt, very healthy. It tastes good even on ice cream,” Traore said.
“They developed the recipe, called in vendors to donate the jars and the onions and so on, and all the employees wanted to help out,” Traore continued. “So they had 100 people work in different shifts, and they hand-labeled every one of those jars. It was a labor of love.” All proceeds from the sale of the salsa were donated to the Food Bank of South Jersey.
For creating a corporate culture where local involvement is a labor of love, Campbell Soup Company earned top honors in design last year from The Civic 50, a ranking of America’s most community-minded companies. The design dimension requires a firm to show how community engagement and employee volunteerism are integral parts of its operating divisions, such as sales and marketing, research and human resources.
CSR: Part of Employee Performance
Corporate social responsibility is “built into our culture here and is part of employee performance expectations,” Bauman said. Founded in 1869, the global food company has 13,000 employees who all work toward 10-year CSR destination goals to “nourish” consumers, neighbors, employees and the planet.
The “big, hairy audacious goals,” Bauman said, are to advance global wellness and nutrition, help build a more sustainable environment, and “honor our role in society from the farm to the family.”
To “nourish the planet,” Campbell works to reduce the company’s energy use by 35 percent, recycle 95 percent of the waste the company generates worldwide, and eliminate 100 million pounds of packaging and get the rest from sustainable materials with the overall objective to reduce the company’s carbon footprint in half in ten years.
To “nourish their neighbors,” Campbell aims to reduce childhood obesity and hunger by 50 percent in their hometown communities by 2020. Campbell employees promote physical activity, help schools come up with better lunch menus and get fruits and vegetables from local community gardens, and help those gardeners sell in local stores.
Back at the food bank, Campbell employees also take part in food drives, lend expertise on its board and contribute significant volunteer time, which Campbell matches through its dollars for doers program with cash grants of up to $10,000 per organization, per year, Bauman said.
For Just Peachy, the initial run from last year’s harvest generated $100,000 for the Food Bank of South Jersey through retail sales. This supported the food bank’s nine hunger relief programs that serve 171,000 food insecure residents in southern New Jersey. With summer approaching, all partners are meeting to determine how to continue the project into the next season.
The Just Peachy project, Bauman said, was “a triple bottom-line effort - good for the community, for local agriculture and for engaging our employees and their skills toward something tangible that’s helping to feed people.”
“Campbell employees are just really involved all the time,” Traore said.
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