Detroit students learn recipe for leadership after school

After school program uses food to teach high school students how lead, develop business plan

DETROIT - Brandy Harvey has discovered she likes to cook after school.

The 11th-grade student began attending Detroit Food Academy at Central Collegiate high school with her sister Brenda.

"When I came here, I learned to be less shy, and I was new to this school so it helped me a lot and then we were learning about how to start a business and how to make a business and when we sell things, like how we determine the price of the food and things like that and how we measure out how much stuff costs," said Harvey.

Harvey doesn't plan to be a chef after she graduates college, but she does have dreams of opening her own business along with her sister.

"I want to be like a writer and a forensic biologist," said Harvey. "When I'm older or when I'm off to college, I want to move to New York, like the city area, and me and my sister plan to open up a bakery and this is kind of like helping to teach us how we would have to set up the price of things or like what we would need to decide to sell."

Detroit Food Academy has after school programs in six Detroit high schools. Each program meets two nights a week.

The goal is not just to teach them how to cook, but to teach them how to lead. They do it through food and social entrepreneurship.

"Just like cooking you need to practice, you need to practice to be a leader. You need to practice having that voice that other people can rally behind and if you don't have that choice, if you don't have the opportunity to use that voice then creating that, creating that leadership quality within yourself is very difficult," said Will Mundel, the program director at Detroit Food Academy.

The students are given $100 a month for a food budget. They learn to cook, but they also develop a business plan. The students learn by doing.

"How to shop smart on a budget, how to get food on a budget, how many things, different things you can make without using an oven or stuff. How good it can be without there being so much sugar in it. How much sugar is in real stuff that is tell you it's healthy when it's not really healthy," said Deshawn Lindsay, a ninth-grade student.

Mundel said they work with teachers in the schools to help oversee the program, but even he himself takes a bit of a hands-off approach.

"You can see that I have been very hands-off, walking around, gave a little bit of directions in the beginning but for the most part these are students making their own decisions and doing those decisions on their own, not me prescribing things for them to do," Mundel said.

The culmination of the program involves the students developing a business plan and executing it. The students at Central Collegiate high school have decided to make and sell granola bars.

They came up with that idea by doing a survey of their classmates and teachers. They also developed their granola bar recipes and tested them before moving forward with their plan.

It's all part of what the Detroit Food Academy calls a triple bottom line food business that impacts people, the planet and profit.

"So that's people helping your community, planet, not hurting, and hopefully actually promoting the health of your environment, as well as making profit for yourself," said Mundel.

Erin Taylor is thinking about a career in technical engineering or possibly a prosecutor, but she hasn't ruled out a job in culinary arts.

"I like to cook like everything. I want to learn, I want to learn a lot," said Erin Taylor, a ninth-grade student.

Deshawn Lindsay sees an opportunity for himself by taking Detroit Food Academy.

"Now I can sell stuff on the side, making money on my own without people telling me how to do it and how to do it smartly and how to get money back and putting it into the materials i use," said Lindsay.

Graduates of the program can apply for Detroit Food Academy's paid summer internship program and work under a food business mentor or a chef mentor.

For more information on the Detroit Food Academy, click here.

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