Nuts to soup, can clickers say
Internet hunger promotion is not what fans thought it was
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
The Green Bay Packers and their fans are a great team for tackling local hunger. But their latest attempt fell short of the goal some expected.
Last fall, Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Gilbert Brown took part in a "Lineman Weigh-in" sponsored by Campbell's "Tackling Hunger" campaign. Campbell donated Chunky Soup totaling ten times Brown's weight to Paul's Pantry -- 6,358 cans. The soup was distributed in Paul's Christmas week food packages.
"That was a blessing," said Craig Robbins, director of Paul's.
Fans thought they were again teaming up with Campbell to help Paul's Pantry during Campbell's Click for Cans Internet challenge in the football season. But things were not quite what they seemed.
"It was a little deceptive on the web site," said Craig Robbins, Paul's director. "They made it seem that, by clicking on a helmet, you got a can of soup donated."
That's exactly what Packers fans thought. They tallied up 658,118 cans at the soup site, which seemed to indicate that 5 million cans of soup would be divided among the 31 NFL teams, according to fan response, and given to local food pantries. After the 5 million mark was reached, the site offered another 500,000 cans. Packers fans rose to the occasion, racking up another 91,395.
The Compass contacted Campbell Soup during the campaign and learned that "fans are invited to simply click on the helmet of their favorite NFL team at www.chunky.com and Campbell's will make a donation of one can of any Campbell's soup on behalf of that team to the national Tackling Hunger donation."
Paul's Pantry was ecstatic. But the amount of soup -- Robbins figured it at more than 10 semi-loads -- was more than they could handle. Robbins contacted other pantries, making arrangements to distribute soup statewide.
There was a problem. Campbell never planned to ship soup directly to Paul's, or any food pantry. Their can tally reflected soup that is donated via reclamation and distribution centers.
Jeff Bedard, a Campbell spokesman told The Compass that Click for Cans resembles sending a donation to a local charity in someone else's name. Campbell makes generalized donations "in the name of the fans."
"We do not make a certain amount of allocations (to local pantries) in terms of those clicks," Bedard said.
Campbell will definitely donate a total of 5.5 million cans of soup this year, he said, in partnership with local grocery stores. These usually involve store returns of dented, unsaleable cans. Such cans go to redistribution centers, which work with food pantries. According to Robbins, though, Paul's Pantry doesn't work directly with a redistribution outlet.
It was a disappointment all around. The Packers were just as surprised as anyone.
"I put a lot of time into getting a player involved for the weigh-in," said Jeanne McKenna, director of community relations for the Packers. She, too, thought Click for Cans would bring a direct donation to Paul's instead of such a broad-based donation. "If we had known that, and our fans had know that, they wouldn't have clicked on the cans."
"I think it's very deceptive," she said.
Local pantries were disappointed. "The Salvation Army was really let down," Robbins said. "We were working with them to distribute this all over the state. Almost every food pantry in the state would have been able to get something."
McKenna is contacting other NFL teams that took part in the Tackling Hunger campaign to gauge their response. "It's just not right," she said.
Bedard admits there was confusion about Click for Cans, but says Campbell believes it is a good way for fans to participate in Campbell's soup distribution and "to raise awareness of hunger and make tangible donations to local relief."
He says much of the confusion came from fan e-mails. "The Packers fans were the most active in the country (in Click for Cans)," he said. "They blew everybody away."
Campbell promises more clarity to the program next year and Bedard has spoken with Robbins to explain the communications mix-up.
As for dreams of seeing semis full of soup driving over Tower Drive Bridge to Paul's Pantry, Robbins take a philosophical approach. "If this wasn't meant to be, there will be something else that comes along. We turn the other cheek. God more than takes care of his needy people here."
(Paul's Pantry will conduct its second annual "From the Heart Food Drive," in honor of its founder, Leo Frigo, and in cooperation with Cub Foods East Feb. 10 to 16.)