Campbell Soup Foundation Continues to Invest in Camden. Why?

When it comes to things like urban renewal and corporate philanthropic giving, symbolism matters.

Take the Campbell Soup factory in Camden, New Jersey. The company has been headquartered in the city since 1869. Situated on the river, drivers see the building on their way to or from Philadelphia. However, the city of Camden itself has had its share of high-profile difficulties, the most recent example of which was when the State of New Jersey laid off the city's entire police force in 2012.

Yet Campbell has stuck with Camden, investing over $132 million to remain in the city and acquiring properties adjacent to its headquarters with the hopes of revitalizing the fabled Gateway District. And the money keeps rolling in. The Campbell Soup Foundation recently gave a $10,000 grant to the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, whose Camden Art Gardens (CAG) project creates art installations in deteriorated public spaces.

This particular grant will help CAG complete a mural in Camden's Northgate Park, to be painted by 400 students as well as local senior citizens. The grant will also complete the second phase of funding for the After School Arts project at Acelero Learning Center, a daycare facility in the city. The RCCA’s After School Arts program invites resident teaching artists to conduct 10-week arts creation courses in a variety of visual and performing arts.

It's great news, but it didn't have to be this way. Like hundreds of corporations in the highly taxed Northeast, Campbell's could have easily picked up and moved south or west. But they didn't. CEO Denise Morrison noted that the area provides access to world-class higher ed institutions and, with it, a well-educated workforce. The region is particularly appealing because it provides access to cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City and, just across the river, Philadelphia.

But what the area also provides is excellent partnerships to devoted nonprofit organizations and programs like Camden Art Gardens. Campbell's sees first-hand that their charitable giving is being used effectively.

By now you're probably wondering, "This is all well and good, but what about that police force they laid off?" You'll be pleased to know that, as noted in an August 2014 New York Times article, the new county-run police force has overseen a 22 percent drop in crime in the city. Fingers are collectively crossed.

Of course, Campbell isn't the only foundation or philanthropist working to revitalize Camden. John E. Morgan is another, and you can read about his recent efforts in the area of early childhood education here.