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Amy Berkhoudt


Detroit Youth Food Brigade

4444 Second Street
Green Garage
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Amy Berkhoudt brings a relative newcomer’s fresh perspective to Detroit’s issues, along with an unwavering belief in the potential of the city’s youth. She also brings energy and passion to bear in her work as co-director of the Detroit Youth Food Brigade.
Michigan NightlightWhat does being a leader mean to you? 
Detroit Youth Food Brigade Co-Director Amy Berkhoudt: I think being a leader is leading from behind. I used to play soccer, and when I was about 14, I had a friend who was the star It’s our responsibility as citizens to help each other out and create equality and break down preconceived notions.player. We were out on the field during one of our first practices, and she started asking for more water breaks and asking us to slow down. I thought that was really strange, and I asked her later on “Are you OK? Is there something physically going on with you?” She said, “No, I just realized Katie was struggling, and I didn’t want her to feel like she couldn’t keep up with the rest of us.” I thought that was a great example of leading from
It’s our responsibility as citizens to help each other out and create equality and break down preconceived notions.
behind, of seeing a person struggling and helping that person in a very humble and non-confrontational sort of way. I think it’s good to lead that way.
What is your dream for kids? 
I want my students to really be caring citizens. I want them to be creative, think for themselves, make good choices, and instill a sense of caring for their community. It’s our responsibility as citizens to help each other out and create equality and break down preconceived notions. We have huge structural problems, and if I can instill some sense of kindness and caring values that would be a dream come true.

What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
I think an obvious answer is funding, but I don’t think that’s really a good answer. It has more to do with good leadership and creating mission statements for top-down and bottom-up initiatives happening here, and having them stand by that. There is a lack of concrete and unifying visions, and that’s the kind of thing that might lead to the city having a hundred different reform measures, but no one really working together. There seem to be a sense of urgency for Detroit to be known for more than just heartache. We can’t forget there were people and are people living in Detroit this whole time. How do we empower the community that stuck it through, and get them to take ownership of some of the new things that are done either from the top down or from people who aren’t really from Detroit -- people like me
There seem to be a sense of urgency for Detroit to be known for more than just heartache.
who moved in a few years ago and helped the city? There’s an interesting push from big philanthropists and business owners that we need to see some kind of unifying effort. It’s in the beginning phases; there is a lot of new energy. We see people working together a little, but there needs to be more work bringing people in who have already been in Detroit.
How do you know you’re making progress?
We’re a really young program. We just kind of stopped recently and looked back on what we did these past few years. We know that we saw progress when our students are really engaged in learning, and when they start showing progress through the decisions that they are making as far as being critical consumers and creative thinkers. I will know we’ve made progress when the Detroit community kind of latches on and starts seeking out healthy options for themselves. Detroit has been talked about as a food desert, and it’s true there’s not a lot of access to grocery stores. How do we help with that problem and promote food access and have people in Detroit look for it? That would be the goal.
What are you most proud of?
I am really proud of my students. Last year six of my students at the school I taught at were in the Detroit Youth Food Brigade. It’s been really fun to engage with my students in different ways. These young students turn into young adults and young leaders. Watching them become more confident in themselves and the decisions they make has been really special.
What perceptions, messages, historical influences create the most significant barriers to engaging Michigan citizens in helping youth find opportunities to improve their communities and to shine?
I come from a different perspective in that I am not from Detroit. What I really see is an intense amount of institutionalized racism. I come from a community, Hawaii, which is very rich in diversity, and we all come together without a problem. When I moved to Detroit the amount of institutionalized racism was appalling. I taught for two years in Southwest Detroit and my students are these amazing humans. I can’t believe people have these misconceptions about them. I want to help my students to prove those ideas wrong. As much as I would like to say we’ve come so far as Americans, I still see the underlying problems that race creates. We still are very much segregated by race. How do you break down those walls?
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Program Profile


  • Detroit Youth Food Brigade
    Detroit Youth Food Brigade (DYFB) is a collaboration between local high school students, food-based businesses, and neighborhood markets to promote food justice and build the local food economy in Detroit.


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