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Student partners with Campbell Soup to make Camden a ‘healthy community’


: Kim Fortunato, Antoinette Dendtler, and Pam Nagurka standing in an urban garden Executive master of natural resources student Pam Nagurka (right) visits the gardens of Healthy Communities program partner ECO Charter School in Camden, N.J., with Kim Fortunato (left), director of the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Communities program, and Antoinette Dendtler, founder and head of ECO Charter School.

Feb. 15, 2014 – Partnering with the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Communities program has opened Pam Nagurka’s eyes to the private sector’s role in social issues. For her capstone directed study project, Nagurka, a student in the college’s Executive Master of Natural Resources program, is working with Healthy Communities Director Kim Fortunato to help build the program beyond the city of Camden, N.J., where the company has been headquartered for almost 150 years.

The company launched the program in 2011 as a commitment to affect measurable change in reducing obesity and hunger in Camden by focusing on four core areas: food access, physical activity and access, nutrition education, and public will. The program employs a “collective impact” model, with the company acting as both the major funder and the backbone organization.

“Working with the Campbell Soup Company has provided me the opportunity to learn firsthand how one major private corporation is enhancing global equality,” Nagurka explained. “I am impressed with, and applaud, the company’s commitment to improve the quality of life of its employees, families, and neighbors in its many hometown communities.”

Developing resources for the company’s plants is one of Nagurka’s main tasks. They will serve as a “how-to” for employees who want to volunteer in their communities, guiding them toward selecting projects that align with the company’s goals and providing an outline for how collective impact can be used to create sustainable programs.

Nagurka, who teaches sixth-grade science full-time at Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington, Va., notes the connection between this project and her profession. “Academic success is closely linked to good nutrition and positive self-image,” she observed.

Her interest in teaching is what attracted her to the Executive Master of Natural Resources program, which is based in the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability. “My curriculum is a survey course that includes energy and the Chesapeake Bay,” she said. “In order to help students understand the relationship among the various science disciplines, I teach my content through the Earth System Science lens.”

“After graduating in the spring, I look forward to using the collective impact model to help solve many societal issues facing our children,” Nagurka said. “My degree will meld my science teaching career and passion for global sustainable practices surrounding the environment, food access, fair trade, and fair wages.”

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