Detroit Food Academy Teaching Young Food Entrepreneurs

By Noelle Sciarini on September 25th, 2013 / Comments

Hungry? Try The Detroit Food Academy.

Since Summer 2011, the Detroit Food Academy has been “growing” and “cultivating” a growing number of green thumbs amongst local high school students.

Jen Rusciano, co-founder and co-director of the Academy, said the idea for the program was actually the result of a classroom assignment.

“One of our co-directors did an assignment in his entrepreneurship class at U of M where he joined our co-founder at the high school where she taught. They had high school students sell mango snacks during their lunch peried,” Rusciano said. “Those snacks wound up selling out within ten minutes, and the idea grew from there.”

It didn’t take long before a team of directors was formed, whose expertise included everything from teaching to food system knowledge to farm-based cooking and much more. Using their various backgrounds they formed the Food Academy around the following mission:

“To use hands-on experiential learning and real-world application to activate young Detroiters as critical thinkers, conscious consumers, life-long learners, values-based leaders, and community activists.”

Rusciano said they focus on mission essentially all year round with two programs: The Academy during the fall and spring, and the Small Batch Entrepreneurship Camp during the summer.

“We started with one group of seventy students during our first summer program, and they got to help run food stands with different partner businesses in the Eastern Market,” Rusciano said. “We got a really positive response from the businesses and some high schools too.”

Starting that fall, they began teaching cooking and food systems classes at two different schools, but Rusciano said their students are getting much more than a cooking lesson. They’ll be at four schools this fall.

“A lot of students get jobs from this,” Rusciano said. “It’s bringing them a step closer to being food entrepreneurs or working in non-profit settings. They’re making contacts with local businesses and learning valuable skills.”

As for the future, Rusciano said they hope to expand the program to include middle school students, and to continue adding to their current curriculum with field trips, class speakers, and continuing to form connections with local food mentors and businesses. The group just finished a successful crowdfunding campaign raising over $10,000 for the program and receiving a feature in Cultural Weekly.

“We want to keep promoting Detroit products, building communities and adding value to these kids’ neighborhoods,” Rusciano said.

For more information about The Detroit Food Academy, please visit their website:

About the Author

Noelle Sciarini

Noelle Sciarini is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. Now an Ann Arbor resident, she fills her spare time with reading, writing, and the occasional road race. Find her on Twitter: @NoelleSci.