This process wasn’t without its hurdles however, as Jen described the role of wearing every hat as the biggest challenge in creating Detroit Food Academy, but also a very rewarding challenge. Having knowledge about food systems and producers meant that Jen also had to learn things like accounting, marketing, public speaking, data collection, and the legal minefield that makes up our society among a large number of skills. Because she was learning on the go, and applying everything she learned as she learned it, she didn’t need the same complete schooling as other people. Wearing many hats for so long allowed Jen to become very proficient in every aspect that the Detroit Food Academy has and will have. This also brought a unique perspective as Jen wants the Detroit Food Academy to be a place where the kids in the program can try on all of the different hats that she has and be able to pick their favorite in a safe environment.
She sees social entrepreneurship as a way to complete these goals because social entrepreneurship to her is, “using what we have to create what we need.” She mentions that the “we” is incredibly important to this process because it should be community oriented underpinned by values in order to leverage the assets the community has to build something great.
The community in Detroit is where Jen has come back to, and she came back because she hopes that the city can develop with an mindset towards equality. An equality that allows all people from Detroit to have a sense of optimism, not only those who move here, but those who were born here. Besides this emphasis on equal development, Jen also hopes the Detroit, as it continues its revival will let the districts keep a lot of the power they were given when Detroit hit its hardest times as it will help allow Detroit to grow in a direction that she would be pleased with.
While the future of Detroit is more of an abstract concept, there is nothing abstract about Jen’s vision for Detroit Food Academy. In 5 years Detroit Food Academy will, not should or could, have a staff of 10 people and the role of executive director, which Jen currently holds, will be held by a former student. This would allow Jen to work as director of special projects. Five years into the future will also see Detroit Food Academy move out of Green Garage and into its own space that it will share with other community partners but will have its own kitchen, learning rooms, and everything else necessary for the daily operations of Detroit Food Academy. With all I have learned of Jen, I agree with her that this future is not one that could happen, with Jen at the helm, it will happen.