forge partnerships

There are endless reasons to find partners to support the creation of a healthier school. There’s always a need for supplies- such as portable gas stoves, shovels, cutting boards, garden gloves, chef knives, lumbar, paper towels, cooking staples, etc. In the start-up stages of the project there will most definitely be a need for fruits, vegetables, soil and seeds (although projects focused on compost systems and seed saving decrease these dependencies). Of course there is also a need for people power- the collective expertise and energy of folks who want to support the project.

Partnership Process:

First a problem is identified and while the strategy to solve it is being designed, we determine what resources we’d like to have (and don’t have) to create the greatest chances of realizing a successful solution.

These resources are prioritized, and we list any potential partners we (or our networks- the school administration, parents, etc) know of who might be willing to provide support. We conduct our outreach to potential partners by email, phone, and ideally in person.

As both we and our partner come to recognize spaces for mutual benefit in project collaboration, a partnership agreement is drafted and signed that lays out the responsibilities for each party and a timeline for deliverables.

On a regular basis throughout the collaborative relationship, regularly check-in and reflect on strengths and areas that need growth to ensure a successful and sustainable partnership.

Best Practices :

Share ideas for partnerships with key school administration before any agreements are finalized. Once you get the green light, remember to remind the relevant school staff of the partner’s role before she begins working with the school, to prevent her from being perceived as a stranger.

Be very transparent with the sharing of contact information of key players in the partnership. If you’re teaching a class and your partner arrives at the school a little late, she’ll want to have a phone number for the school secretary.

There no doubt when working in Philly public schools that flexibility is required.┬áProvide timely notice when plans change that affect the partnership. If there’s miscommunication that results in frustration, be sure to reflect on the experience and build in systems that prevent this from happening further.

Open your mind and be creative when thinking about spaces for mutual benefit. In an effort to procure food for a family cooking workshop, we contacted a local supermarket. Our proposal included the idea to circulate the supermarket’s monthly discount flyer at the workshop to begin with, and the in the future plan workshop recipes that feature to produce that will be on sale. Everyone wins in this situation.


While many of these potential resource needs can be purchased, for cash-strapped schools the budget doesn’t exist. One option is to apply for grant funding (a google search for ‘school garden grant’ generates 79,500,000 results). If you have the time to apply for funding, and the principal approves the application, go for it. For immediate support and resources that can’t be obtained through grants (like volunteer energy), look to community partners.

Key Questions:

If a volunteer is working with children in the school, does he/she have the needed background checks and clearances? If not, the school principal can lead the volunteer through the process of obtaining them.