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Alison Heeres


The Next Urban Chef

3663 Woodward Ave
Detroit, Michigan 48201
A former volunteer for Cooking Matters courses, Alison Heeres is now in charge of educational programming for The Next Urban Chef, a program that educates Detroit youth on local food systems and sustainability while teaching valuable culinary skills. 
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
The Next Urban Chef Co-Founder and Coordinator of Educational Programming Alison Heeres: Being a leader means being open to not always taking the most efficient or “reasonable” path -- those don’t always take into account the inequity in our communities. Real leadership is more about observing, listening, and sharing than necessarily having a strong or iconic personality. Leadership is also about having hope and faith that everyone can make a difference.
What is your dream for kids?
Real leadership is more about observing, listening, and sharing than necessarily having a strong or iconic personality.

My dream is that all kids are given the opportunity to flourish, that all of their faculties are nurtured and respected, and that they learn to love themselves.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
We could improve by offering a greater appreciation and support for schools and teachers. A lot of social work is in response to an educational system that is extremely overburdened. We don’t give teachers enough time, support, space and training to serve vulnerable populations.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I know progress is being made when I see support networks developing with people with shared understanding and shared values. All of our work is about building a more cohesive community and bringing people of disparate backgrounds together
All of our work is about building a more cohesive community and bringing people of disparate backgrounds together to build a shared community life.
to build a shared community life.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the relationships and trust we’ve built with students, and the knowledge that our shared experience has made all of our lives richer and fuller. I’m also proud when parents see the work we’re doing as valuable to their children.
What role have networks played in your professional career? How have individuals in those networks affected the work you are able to do?
The work I do takes a variety of talents; it’s not something you go to school for. Through social and professional networks, I’ve learned from some really generous people about youth, food, and small business; that learning allowed me to gain the confidence and expertise to run something like this. I’ve had some incredible mentors who didn’t even know they were mentors.
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Program Profile


  • The Next Urban Chef
    It is the mission of The Next Urban Chef to engage youth from the city of Detroit in the good food movement. Too often, the faces of those working for food justice do not reflect those who live in the communities that are suffering most from the ...


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