The Urban School Food Alliance (USFA) was created by school foodservice professionals in 2012 to address the unique needs of the nation’s largest school districts.  As a nonprofit group, we share best practices and leverage our purchasing power to continue to drive food quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices. This mission is driven by our passion to provide its 3.3 million students delicious and healthy meals – proper nutrition they need to do well in school. And, at the same time, the Alliance wants to help make the overall school food service program more efficient and effective.

As the organization evolved after its founding in 2012, USFA leadership partnered with Wachs Strategies to develop and implement a growth strategy for shifting from a volunteer led organization to become a professional entity with a staff.

Wachs Strategies supported USFA in multiple ways from 2016 to the present, helping the organization evolve from a budget of $200,000 to $1,000,000, including its first two national foundation grants, and a staff of zero to its first full time staff member. Highlights of the work include:

Developed Fundraising Pipeline and Key Donor Relationships: Developed key messages to build a funding base of support, established donor prospecting and cultivation process, and supported board members as they learned the basics of nonprofit fundraising. Supported the renewal of key funding relationships, which resulted in introductions to other funding entities.
Established Strategic Partnerships: Built programmatic partnerships with key organizations in the hunger and nutrition space that increased USFA’s impact and profile. Supported board efforts to review partnerships and determine best structure and goals for mutual benefit.
Advised Leadership on Organizational Direction & Infrastructure:  Served as advisor on organizational direction, staffing, budget and resource deployment. Led brainstorming sessions at membership meetings. Led successful search for organization’s first executive director, recruiting an individual recognized as a definitive leader in the field. Supported the Board and Executive Director with onboarding and establishing needed systems and processes for success.

With this strong and established foundation for growth, USFA plans to continue to add staff members and expand its portfolio of work in the coming years,allowing the organization to more effectively support efforts that will ultimately influence school meals at the national level by using these large urban districts as a proving ground for innovation. For example, the organization has become more active in sharing its stance on various federal policies and processes that can affect school meal programs, and the organization’s Executive Director is able to more active in conversations about ways to increase efficiency and reduce redundancies in programs, due to her significant experience in the field. In addition, the organization is greatly advancing programmatic efforts, both to increase collaboration among member districts and to share best practices with non-member districts. These are examples of the shifts the organization is only able to make now that it has begun the process of moving from volunteer-board led to an entity with dedicated staff resources. Wachs Strategies continues to support the Alliance in the next phase of its organizational development, helping to build resources and relationships.

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Josh Wachs

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