May 10, 2010; New York Times | The renowned community organizer Saul Alinsky used to argue that if you want to bring about change, don’t obsess about what you don’t have but take advantage of what you do have. That philosophy seems to be the guiding spirit behind a new campaign launched last week by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

The campaign is organized around the theme “Nothing,” something which is unfortunately in abundance for many Rhode Islanders suffering through the recession. As part of the campaign, along with a website, YouTube videos and other promotions, the food bank is selling some 40,000 “Nothing” branded cans in stores for $2.99 each. In addition to the word “Nothing” on the label, the cans depict a spoon atop an empty bowl, and feature the tagline “An Unnecessary Tradition.”

The campaign is being done as a pro bono effort by Nail, an advertising agency based in Providence. According to the New York Times, the food bank hopes to raise $300,000 from sales of “Nothing” cans and donations and also is using the effort to build its future donor base. One of the targets of the campaign are young people who, when given a choice, prefer to donate to solving “finite problems: to build a wing for a hospital, a playground for a school,” said Jeremy Crisp, managing partner at Nail. Adds, Crisp, “Things like a cure for cancer to an end to hunger are intangible” to them. That’s not nothing. That’s something.—Bruce Trachtenberg