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Partnerships Built for Success

When Missions Align

What makes for a good partnership? After spending many years of my career helping create and maintain strategic business partnerships, I find that there’s one thing that makes for a really good match, the kind that seems like a natural fit and gels together easily: aligning missions. When missions are in alignment, everything else flows organically, and collaborations are set up for success. Three years ago, Chef Ann Foundation began a partnership with Life Time Foundation built on common missions, and what a success it has been!

Both organizations play pivotal roles in school food reform, which didn’t necessarily mean we would get along easily or that our missions would align nicely. Our mission is to provide school communities with the tools, training, resources, and funding that enables them to create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. When we met the Life Time Foundation team, we learned about their mission to remove the Harmful 7* from school food because they believe that school food should feed children’s brains and bodies, not harm them. We quickly realized we were on the same page when it comes to school food reform—both of us care about what goes into the food our children eat.

One way we fulfil our mission is by helping school districts transform their school food operations. We break down the process into smaller, achievable goals and support schools as they say goodbye to serving highly processed heat-and-serve school lunches and hello to cooking on site and serving meals made from scratch. Once schools make that switch, they open themselves to the power of purchasing; when schools prepare food themselves, they get to decide what does—and doesn’t—go into those meals. Another way to look at this is when schools cook from scratch, they have a much easier pathway to removing the Harmful 7.

Consider the chicken nugget, for example. When schools that operate a heat-and-serve production purchase chicken nuggets, they get the nugget along with a panel of 30 ingredients they didn’t get to choose, like preservatives or artificial flavors and colors. But, if schools prepare their own chicken entrees in-house, they can chose their raw meat provider, use whole muscle chicken, and avoid those Harmful 7!

Now how is that for mission alignment!

With only about $1.25 per meal for food costs, cooking from scratch and removing the Harmful 7 is quite the tall order. Without much to spend, our pocketbooks often require us to rely on those harmful ingredients to cut costs. Nevertheless, as soon as we met, we were all determined to see how Chef Ann Foundation and Life Time Foundation could team up and make it happen. Since then, we’ve been working together to help schools switch to scratch-made meals and gain the ability to control their ingredients and eliminate the Harmful 7.

One of the biggest ways Life Time Foundation contributes to our successful partnership is by keeping The Lunch Box updated, running and free for all schools. The Lunch Box is an online treasure chest of resources and tools, like recipes, marketing materials, business forms, and how-to guides, available to schools working to cook from scratch and serve healthier, fresher, better food to our children. The Lunch Box is a key ingredient for school food success, but it wouldn’t be available to schools if Chef Ann Foundation and Life Time Foundation didn’t have a great partnership!

Cheers to finding those perfect mates and collaborating to carry out common missions!

*The Harmful 7 Ingredients of Concern are: trans-fats and hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, hormones and antibiotics, processed and artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and flavors, artificial preservatives, and bleached flour.


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