Over the last three years, BUILD awardees have been working toward addressing social determinants of health and advancing health equity in their communities. To commemorate the end of our third cohort and spotlight their impactful work, we will be sharing each of our 18 communities’ stories — highlighting the partners’ collaborative approach to creating meaningful change in their community, the challenges they faced, and the transformative impact of these efforts for residents.

Although the city of Camden may have a relatively high concentration of health care facilities and urban gardens, as of 2018, more than 30 percent of Camden adults have high blood pressure, and more than 10 percent have diabetes. The intergenerational incidences of diet-related chronic conditions are due in large part to a lack of access to fresh foods. The USDA has designated Camden as a food desert, and the limited supply of healthy foods is linked with the high prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases. Since residents haven’t had access to fresh produce for such a long time, they often don’t shop for it right away when they do start to get access to it.

Roots to Prevention is a collaboration of Camden residents, nonprofits, farmers, institutions, and government entities who are all committed to improving the health of communities by providing access to fruits and vegetables. Partners have joined forces to work across different parts of the city, and projects are sharing the benefits of knowledge, programming, and working side by side. Initiatives leverage diet-related disease prevention programs with urban agriculture, cooking classes, and healthy corner store initiatives. At a systems level, the collaborative aims to increase the demand for local, healthy food production. In turn, this reduces inequities in incidence of hunger and diet-related illnesses, while at the same time supporting new sources of income, revitalizing vacant lands, and promoting economic development. Those who are a part of the growing network of urban gardeners and growers are excited to teach and expand within the area to reinvigorate the urban agriculture movement.

Over the past three years, the Camden BUILD partnership has:

  • Enabled Camden Coaltion of Healthcare Partners and Virtua Health partners to redeem $30,000 of Food Bucks Rx for fresh produce;
  • Distributed 500 copies of Roots to Prevention’s bilingual healthy cookbook across the city;
  • And received nearly $300,000 for the Roots to Market program from the first-ever USDA Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Grant.

BUILD Principles have meant the willingness to go above and beyond to do what we can for the community.
—Andrew Katz, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

Read more about Roots to Prevention’s impact in Camden and stay tuned monthly for more BUILD community stories!