Ballard Spahr has launched a 2014 social responsibility initiative by joining forces with Common Market, a nonprofit food distributor dedicated to improving access to healthy, affordable, and environmentally sustainable food in the greater Philadelphia area. To cement the partnership as part of its hunger and nutrition project, the firm has made a commitment to donate $850,000 to Common Market over the next 10 years.

Common Market is a longtime Ballard Spahr pro bono client. The organization connects farmers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware with public and private schools, hospitals, universities, grocery stores, workplaces, nonprofits, and religious institutions in the region, with a focus on promoting nutrition in inner-city communities.

Hunger, nutrition, and sustainable foods will be a major focus of Ballard Spahr’s pro bono, charitable, and service efforts in 2014, with the Common Market partnership being the firm’s flagship project. The firm has pledged to donate $85,000 a year for 10 years to Common Market under a tax credit program established by the City of Philadelphia. The City program—the only one of its kind in the nation—is designed to encourage corporate support for nonprofits engaged in developing and implementing healthy food initiatives. Philabundance is the program’s only other nonprofit beneficiary.

“As a city with one of the highest percentages of children living in poverty, Philadelphia sees far too many residents without access to healthy or adequate food,” said firm Chair Mark Stewart. “Common Market provides a critical link between neighborhoods in need and regional farms, and we’re proud to support the organization.”

Ballard Spahr’s pro bono counsel, Mary Gay Scanlon, said the firm’s discussions with Common Market about the partnership were a catalyst for organizing a broader social responsibility initiative.

“When our friends at Common Market approached us with this proposal, it launched a discussion about the firm’s commitment to and support for a wide range of projects involving hunger, nutrition and sustainable food,” Ms. Scanlon said. “As we realized how invested the firm was in this issue already, we decided that food issues were the logical focus for the firm’s social responsibility efforts in 2014.”

Ballard Spahr’s current efforts to reduce hunger and promote better nutrition and sustainable food include pro bono support and board service for groups like Common Market, urban gardens, and nonprofit inner-city food markets, as well as a multitude of service projects. Lawyers and staff across the firm’s 14 offices participate in community activities that include organizing food drives and volunteering at soup kitchens. The effort even includes promoting healthier snacking habits: earlier this month, the firm launched a program to provide fresh fruit for employees in the Philadelphia Office twice a month.

Since its founding in 2008, Common Market has distributed more than 4.5 million pounds of food, valued at more than $5 million, from 80 regional producers to more than 200 customers, most of whom are in Philadelphia. The organization also offers specific programs—such as the “Farm to School” program for public and private schools and the “Good Food, Good Health Care” program for hospitals—that show clients how to base their menus around seasonal availability of produce and encourage them to promote nutrition and sustainability.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the commitment from Ballard Spahr,” said Haile Johnston, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Common Market. “It is fabulous to see them taking such a comprehensive and long-term approach to supporting healthy and sustainable food projects. It will mean real impact for organizations like ours, and more importantly, for the communities we serve.”

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