Our food system needs radical reinvention, and, unfortunately, children are at the highest risk. Somewhere in the world, every ten seconds, a child dies from hunger-related disease. Even in America, one out of five children will go to sleep tonight hungry or food-insecure. However, no single organization can address this issue alone. We must form public-private partnerships to collectively improve children’s health.
Leveraging the model popularized by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, we are using a collective impact methodology to improve the health and well being of our young neighbors in communities where our employees live and work. The authors define “collective impact” as a framework for cross-sector leaders to forge a shared vision and solve specific social issues. They state five core characteristics: a common agenda, shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and backbone support.
In our food system, this means companies can partner with cross-sector, local, regional and national leaders including schools, universities, hospitals, foundations and food banks. They should thoughtfully identify organizations that could meaningfully contribute to their strategic focus areas, create a culture of health and drive long-term change. To do this, they will need to extend beyond the obvious food-related organizations. They should seek to influence both the caregivers and the children themselves—whether at home, at school, in after-school activities, while shopping and even while seeking healthcare. Together, these diverse stakeholders bring a wide range of perspectives, skills and experience.
We have done this through Campbell’s Healthy Communities program and are seeing tangible progress. Young people who engaged in the program are more active. They eat more fruits and vegetables. And they are choosing more healthful food during shopping trips. We have also documented environmental and policy changes in our schools, and changes in our food system. And since the health of our communities is directly correlated to the health and prosperity of our business, this program creates shared value in communities where we operate. The system works. The impact is visible.