Megan Shea and Chip Heim are both food industry veterans. They met at the Campbell’s Soup Company, where part of their respective roles in marketing, innovations, and design involved regular research trips out into the world and into people’s homes and cabinets. In most cases, this gave them a chance to see what people really buy and how they eat versus what they might report back in a survey. It also gave them a shocking glimpse at the limited access to quality food too many people have. The latter is what directly inspired the pair’s new endeavor, The Soulfull Project.
The concept behind the company is simple. It’s a hot cereal brand that operates on the the Toms one-for-one model: With every serving of hot cereal purchased, a serving will go to a food bank in the same region.
While still working on the innovation team for Campbell’s, the two began building The Soulfull Project at night and on weekends. Their first stop was the Food Bank of South Jersey. The food bank embraced their idea and helped them develop the Four Grain Blend, which is what gets donated to a local food banks every time a Soulfull Project product is purchased.
Next, they pitched their concept to Campbell’s executives. Shea recalls the response from Campbell’s America president Mark Alexander: "It doesn’t sound like you’re asking, it sounds like you’re telling us, you’re going to do it." Six months later, the product was available for sale at The Soulfull Project’s first retail partner, Wegman’s.
As Shea and Heim continued to learn more about food insecurity in America, they realized that hunger affects nearly every community in different ways. "We started here in the Northeast, just around the Philadelphia area, but in the past year, Chip and I have been driving — literally driving — around the country meeting with food banks," Shea says. Last year they visited 80 in total.
One thing they noticed: Most donations are not the kind of food we’d want to eat ourselves. Heim explained, "You donate something that isn’t something that you wanted or it’s not as good a quality as you would normally want, and we don’t do that. We wanted to donate the best quality we can and food that we think is really good; it’s good for us, it’s good for them."
Since its official launch in August of 2016, The Soulfull Project has donated 313,844 servings to food banks across the United States. Now, Heim and Shea are eagerly working toward reaching a benchmark of one million donations all while they continue to go out and meet with food banks. As for whether they’re planning to expand the one-for-one donation model into other foods, it doesn’t seem like they want to get ahead of themselves. However, Shea did say their vision for The Soulfull Project is to "creating a company, where your everyday purchases can go back and help your community." So, perhaps that’s a hint toward expansion. In the meantime, the duo will continue attempting to combat food insecurity, one serving of hot cereal at a time.
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