HEAL Food Alliance

School of Political Leadership

Grow the future your community deserves. Get started today!

Thinking about applying? Watch our informational webinar on 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

We Can Build Power to Transform the System

The world as we know it is changing. While our communities are at the forefront of the pandemic, climate crisis, and ongoing racial, economic and social injustice, our communities are also at the forefront of solutions. HEAL’s SoPL is an opportunity for you as an emerging or established community leader to grow your skills to meet this moment. SoPL engages expert trainers and guest speakers to provide you with the tools and technical assistance to grow grassroots political leadership. 

To date, we’ve graduated 46 leaders from our School of Political Leadership.

Through SoPL you'll 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


Now in its 5th year, SoPL seeks 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 working people across the food system; 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
Are affiliated with a HEAL member organization*
Given the upcoming farm bill cycle, we also encourage teams working on a campaign idea for the farm bill to apply.

While SoPL prioritizes applicant teams within HEAL’s organizational membership (with particular attention to candidates from frontline communities), we will 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:
Power Analysis
Campaign Strategy Development
Field & Base Building
Communications & Messaging
Ethical & Accountable Leadership
Policy Advocacy
HEAL's Platform for Real Food
Due to the pandemic, sessions for the 2023 SoPL cohort will be virtual with the possibility of a final in-person session if conditions allow. We design sessions 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.

Key Dates

September 21, 2022: Applications Open
October 6, 2022: SoPL Informational Webinar, 3:00pm-4:00pm ET / 2:00pm-3:00pm CT / 12:00pm-1:00pm PT
November 13, 2022: Application Deadline 
December 16, 2022: Applicant Confirmation Deadline 
January 23 - 27, 2023: Cohort Introductory Calls
February 8, 9 &10, 2023: HEAL Welcome & Orientation  
March 15 & 16, 2023: Power Analysis & Campaign Strategy 
April 12 & 13, 2023: Field & Base Building Strategy 
May 10 & 11, 2023: Communications Strategy  
June 6-9, 2023: 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, and meals). Stipends will be determined based on the needs of each person. Any additional expenses incurred, will be the responsibility of the SoPL participant. If we are able to host an in-person session, travel expenses, including lodging, will be covered by HEAL. 


The 6-month long, virtual training program will take place January - June 2023. Teams must be available to attend:
1) all virtual gatherings
2) and monthly team meetings with HEAL staff and/or trainers.

All team members are expected to be able to commit approximately 14 hours per month to their participation in SoPL and aligned campaign work. Participants will be expected to complete work with their teammates between sessions. SoPL is committed to supporting all teams and team members with accessibility needs and we will do our best to accommodate family and community needs for all participants.

Individuals must receive permission from their respective organizations to attend all sessions in their entirety:
  • January 23 - 27, 2023: Cohort Introductory Calls (1.5 hr)
  • February 8, 9 & 10, 2023: HEAL Welcome & Orientation (4 hrs/day)
  • March 15 & 16, 2023: Power Analysis & Campaign Strategy (4 hrs/day)
  • April 12 & 13, 2023: Field & Base Building Strategy (4 hrs/day)
  • May 10 & 11, 2023: Communications Strategy (4 hrs/day)
  • June 6 - 9, 2023: SoPL Close & Celebration (4 days) 


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 for each person that’s part of the team)
Submit samples of relevant work (optional)
Submit by or before Sunday, November 13, 2022 at 11:59pm (PST).
Candidates will be notified about their application status by Friday, December 16, 2022.
Please direct questions to Marlene Manzo (marlene@healfoodalliance.org)


Through SoPL, my understanding of power has changed a lot. I feel a sense of calm and peace that comes from feeling empowered. When we feel like change is impossible, we have to remember that it’s just that: a feeling. It’s valid to feel that way, but change is very much possible. Sharing space with people who have done the work of pushing for policies centered around humanity, dignity, livelihood, and personhood proves that it is possible. - Marco Lemus
~ Marco Lemus
2022 SoPL Cohort
Through the School of Political Leadership, T.H.E.M has been provided access to a political education-focused language which describes a truth many of us have collectively experienced: that BIPOC farmers are best positioned to design and lead solutions which transform our food system, with a critical analysis of its intersection with other community concerns, such as racial equity, immigrant workers rights, and climate justice.
~ Bea Fry and Jazmin Martinez
2022 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?
The 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 campaigns in 2023.
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 five online SoPL sessions will be held over 3 weekdays per month in February, 2 weekdays per month during March - May, and the possibility of an in-person session over 3 weekdays in June of 2023. Monthly team calls will take place in between the online gatherings. Teams are expected to attend ALL virtual and in person programming including sessions and team calls. We encourage you to work with your organization to make sure you can take this time out of your regular work schedule to meet with us.
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. (Our list of member organizations is 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?
SoPL will take place over Zoom with the possibility of a final in-person session. 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?
You’ll get as much out of SoPL as you give to it, and your participation impacts everyone else’s experience too. You must receive permission from your organization/employer to ensure your attendance during the session dates above; and set aside sufficient time for the monthly team calls and homework. Additionally, participants will require stable internet access for all virtual sessions (if you don’t have great internet access, talk to us; we’ll help if we can).

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?
Register for 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. Register now >>