HEAL Food Alliance

School of Political Leadership

Grow the future your community deserves.

Get started today!

Thinking about applying? Make sure to first watch our informational webinar to learn about the application process and hear from past SoPL participants about their experiences.
**Ofrecemos traducción e interpretación para ser consecuentes con nuestros valores. Si desea ayuda en Español, favor de contactarnos a marlene@healfoodalliance.org**

**As part of HEAL’s commitment to language justice we look forward to expanding our language access. If you need translation assistance, please reach out to us at marlene@healfoodalliance.org**
The HEAL SCHOOL OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP (SoPL) is grounded in a vision for food and farm systems that work for all of us. We believe our food and farm systems should prioritize:
Community needs over corporate profits
Biodiversity and thriving ecosystems
Safe and dignified working conditions that include living wages for working people & democratic decision-making for communities
Food that is healthy, accessible, and affordable for all people
Are you interested in building skills to develop a campaign plan, organize in your community, win policy change, run & represent, and communicate your vision for change?

The Need.

Our Elected Decision-Makers are Failing Our Communities

For too long, the people who design and implement policy have prioritized profit over people and our planet. Labor laws that exclude farmworkers, the over-policing and under-resourcing of Black and Brown communities and giant food and farm corporations that influence legislation to pollute air, water, and land are just some examples of decision-makers writing rules without our communities’ interests at heart. HEAL’s School of Political Leadership trains community members to challenge and change this. We’re building the skills of community leaders who are fighting for change. 

The Time is Right

Across the country and beyond our borders, a surge of political energy is driving everyday people to take leadership and confront corporations and political systems that profit from mass destruction. We imagine a future where all people - and our planet - can thrive, but how do we get there? Policy change requires organized people, resources, grassroots power and influence.

HEAL’s SoPL is committed to supporting political leadership that is accountable to and representative of the communities that are most negatively burdened by our current food and farm systems, including Black, Indigenous, immigrant, poor, working class and rural communities. We believe in the power of our people, and that by cultivating the skills of the HEAL community, we can play a role in shaping the food and farm systems we all deserve.

To date, we’ve graduated 34 leaders from our School of Political Leadership.

We Can Build Power to Transform the System

The world as we know it is changing. Communities that are at the forefront of the pandemic, our climate crisis, and ongoing racial, economic and social injustice are also at the forefront of solutions. HEAL’s SoPL engages expert trainers and guest speakers to provide participants with the tools and technical assistance to grow grassroots political leadership.

Through this program, participants gain:

A shared analysis of the dominant political and economic system and strategic levers for change
An understanding of food and farm policies and related federal, state, and local legislative and electoral processes
New skills in power mapping, campaign planning, communications, policy advocacy, community organizing and/or electoral candidacy
Enhanced confidence to initiate strategic campaigns, educate policymakers, organize within communities and/or run for office
Strengthened ability to respond and thrive in a rapidly changing social and political landscape
Relationships for increased support and community resilience


SoPL is seeking self-motivated and committed teams of 2-4 individuals who want to enhance their advocacy, organizing and political leadership skills to champion food and farm systems that are healthy, accessible and affordable to all communities; fair and dignified for the hard working people across the food chain; and that protect the air, water, and land we all depend on. 
We are looking for teams who:
Are meaningfully involved in their workplace or community
Can bring together diverse groups to achieve a goal
Want to gain further experience in community organizing or policy advocacy
Have a desire to build effective teams
Are interested in learning about what it takes to run for political office
Can articulate a personal political vision
Want to deepen networks with leaders across the country as they organize during a pandemic
Inspire others to take action
Are committed to uplifting socially, politically and/or economically marginalized communities
Have a clear idea for a campaign that they want to win
While SoPL prioritizes applicant teams from HEAL’s organizational membership (with particular attention to candidates from frontline communities), we will also strongly consider applicant teams affiliated with a HEAL member organization. Please note that space is limited to 4 teams. 

The Details!


HEAL's expert trainers and guest speakers will teach the cohort strategies and skills to win campaigns (policy advocacy, organizing and electoral). Sessions will include but are not limited to the following topics.
Power Analysis
Campaign Strategy Development
Field & Base Building
Communications & Messaging
Ethical & Accountable Leadership
HEAL's Platform for Real Food
Due to the pandemic, all sessions for the 2022 SoPL cohort will be virtual and designed based on the unique goals, needs and realities of participants.

Throughout the course, team members will map institutional power systems in their own communities to assist in the development of their campaign plan. Teams will also learn to cultivate relationships with local media outlets to achieve a media placement such as an op-ed, press conference, or other event. In addition to individualized support, SoPL will provide mini-grants to teams with clear campaign targets and supporting events. 

Key Dates

September 21, 2021: Application Launch
October 5, 2021: SoPL Informational Webinar
Nov. 14, 2021: Application Deadline 
Dec. 13, 2021: Notification of Applicant Selection into 2022 Cohort
Dec. 16, 2021: Applicant Confirmation Deadline
January 27, 2022: Cohort Introductory Webinar
February 16 & 17: HEAL Welcome & Orientation
March 16 & 17: Power Analysis & Campaign Strategy
April 13 & 14: Field & Base Building Strategy 
May 11 & 12: Communications Strategy  
June 8 & 9: SoPL Close & Celebration




The HEAL Food Alliance will cover the full cost of all training sessions for participants. In addition, selected teams will have the opportunity to apply for a mini-grant of up to $2,500 to support their campaign plan.

HEAL will also partially cover the costs for accessibility needs (e.g. wifi, child care needs and meals). Stipends will be determined on a per person basis. Any additional expenses incurred, will be the responsibility of the SoPL participant.


The 6-month long, virtual training program will take place January - June 2022. Teams must be be available to attend all virtual gatherings and monthly team meetings with HEAL staff and/or trainers.

Participants will be expected to complete work with their teammates between sessions. SoPL is committed to supporting all teams with accessibility needs and we will do our best to accommodate family and community needs for all participants.

All team members are expected to be able to commit approximately 12 hours per month to their participation in SoPL and aligned campaign work. Each virtual session will run for 4 hours maximum, per day, over a two-day period: Wednesday and Thursday, for a total of 8 hours maximum per session. In addition, each team will schedule and participate in a monthly, 1 hour team meeting to ensure progress on their campaign plan. Individuals must receive permission from their respective organizations to attend all sessions in their entirety. 


Review the above program description and FAQ below
Identify a team of 2-4 individuals from your community and a relevant policy/advocacy, organizing or electoral campaign objective
Receive an organizational letter of support
* For applicants that are based at organizations that are a part of HEAL, a letter of support is highly recommended but not mandatory
* Applicants from non-member organizations are required to submit a letter of support from a HEAL member organization they have worked alongside or are currently working with. Please see our list of member organizations here. If you need more info on how to connect with a HEAL member for SoPL support, please reach out at the contact information listed below.
Complete online application (1 per team)
Submit a cover letter or resume (1 per teammate)
Submit samples of relevant work (optional)
In summary, attach a cover letter or resume for each teammate, organizational letter/s of support, and samples of relevant work (optional) with the application and submit by or before Sunday, November 14, 2021 at Midnight (PST).
Please note, the application is adapted for Microsoft Word. If you have trouble downloading this as a Word document, or if you do not have Word, please reach out to marlene@healfoodalliance.org
Candidates will be notified about their application status by Thursday, December 16, 2021. 
Please direct questions to Marlene Manzo (marlene@healfoodalliance.org)


SoPL not only provided me with immediate tangible tools to build power at the hyper-local level, but also helped me understand the bigger vision of creating an equitable food system, and how my work was part of that vision. My participation has helped me see that collective power comes from the recognition of the intersectionality of our work, and a shared vision can bring us together to create the systemic disruption we need to shift the dominant power dynamic.
Angel Garcia
2018 SoPL Cohort
Our second SoPL session in Albany, Georgia gave us valuable tools to recognize how we passively engage in systems of injustice because we mistakenly believe that we can effect change by following the rules that are inherently not in our favor without questioning their legitimacy. Once we begin to spot these red flags it frees us to begin to build new strategies that are outside the existing norm, with the hope of building strong alliances that can eventually mount successful challenges.
Sheryll Durant
2019 SoPL Cohort
This is about transforming our food system, in Minnesota, in this country, on this planet. This is about food sovereignty and the ways we are learning to heal the land and heal ourselves. HEAL understands how hard this work is, how much it asks of us as organizers of color, what the stakes are and why we need each other to win. SoPL gives us these chances to be together and be vulnerable, to share our big dreams and our fears; to learn from some of the best in our field and take on some of the biggest battles of our time.
Zoe Hollomon
2021 SoPL Cohort


What if I’m not running for office?
SoPL is designed for teams of 2-4 individuals who want to build skills to lead policy advocacy, organizing and electoral campaigns and/or learn how to run for office. We're committed to building leadership for the long haul, and we're not expecting that all participants will run in 2022.
What if I don’t meet all the criteria?
We're seeking leaders who are accountable to our communities and to the vision and values of HEAL, and we expect that you will be able to demonstrate this. One way to demonstrate your commitment is through a letter of support from a HEAL member organization that is familiar with your work. It's okay if you don't have all the skills yet to take political leadership - that's why SoPL exists. We'll look at your whole application, not just the checklist of criteria.
Can I participate in SoPL if I work full time?
Yes. The six online SoPL sessions will be held over 2 weekdays per month during January - June of 2022. Monthly team calls will take place in between the online gatherings. Teams are expected to attend all virtual programming including sessions and team calls. We encourage you to work with your organization to make sure you can take this time to meet.
How many people will be in the cohort?
The cohort will have a maximum of 4 teams, with a preference for frontline organizers, advocates and grassroots leaders who are part of a member organization of the HEAL Food Alliance.

We request that applicants from non-member organizations that are solidly aligned with HEAL’s vision, mission and Platform for Real Food submit a letter of support/recommendation from a HEAL membership organization they have worked alongside or are currently working with. Please see our list of member organizations here.

If you need more info on how to connect with a HEAL member for SoPL support, please reach out to the contact information listed above.
Will there be a waitlist?
Yes. Accepted participants will be expected to complete a contract of commitment to SoPL within one week of notification of acceptance to the program. If accepted participants are unable to commit, they will forfeit their space to the next team on the waitlist.
Where will SoPL be held?
There will be 6 virtual sessions that all participants are expected to attend. SoPL will take place over Zoom. Between virtual sessions, participants will meet online and by phone. Participants should anticipate completing approximately 3-5 hours of “homework” between each virtual session. HEAL staff are committed to supporting all teams with accessibility needs.
If I'm selected, what will I need to participate?
Candidates will ideally secure stable internet access for all virtual sessions. We recommend requesting permission from your organization/employer to ensure your attendance during the session dates above as well as setting aside sufficient time for the monthly team calls and homework. HEAL staff will be contacting the cohort upon selection to confirm their connectivity and scheduling status and needs. To get the most out of your SoPL experience, we recommend the following materials:
*Desktop computer or laptop (mobile devices have limited capacity for document sharing and viewing presentations)
*Reliable wi-fi connection
*Webcam, if your computer does not already have one
*A free Zoom account
*Optional: printer access if you prefer printed copies of materials. (All SoPL materials are electronic.)

If you need support accessing any of the above materials, feel free to indicate that in your application. If you’re accepted, we’ll work with you to meet your material needs as much as possible.
How much does it cost?
HEAL will cover the cost of tuition for all participants, and provide stipends on an as-needed basis to support accessibility needs for virtual sessions and meetings (e.g. wifi). The award amount is determined on a per person basis. 
Where can I find out more?
Watch our informational webinar to get details on the application process for this year's School of Political Leadership and hear from past SoPL participants about their experience in the program. Watch now >>