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Stories of Impact

Learning Initiatives

Downtown Boxing Gym’s New Commercial Kitchen Nourishes Student Athletes in Myriad Ways

“Having a commercial kitchen opens the door to new possibilities – from being able to serve 200 healthy made-from-scratch meals daily to showing students pathways to culinary careers.”

Jessica Hauser, Executive Director, Downtown Boxing Gym

Detroit, MI (March 2024)When chef Molly Mitchell is whipping up a meal in the sparkling new commercial kitchen at the Downtown Boxing Gym, it’s not uncommon to find 10 eager helpers by her side. “What are you making? Can I be your assistant? What new techniques can you teach us?” These budding chefs are so curious and excited to be a part of the journey from prep to plate, they’re happy to take on any task, even the small ones, like folding towels and sorting silverware.

The Detroit Boxing gym delivers more than 200 healthy meals to students daily. In order to meet the needs of its expanding student athlete population, it needed to revamp its kitchen space, which previously contained only one residential oven and very little space for food prep. Funding came from a Walters Family Foundation grant, which covered everything from framing to flooring to equipment like deep freezers, a range, storage solutions and more. The result was transformative.

Dinner is Served Photo Courtesy of Downtown Boxing GymDownload a high-resolution version of this photo.

“This is what we've been wanting to do forever, which is to be able to provide healthy meals from scratch and have students participate in every step of the food journey.” says Jessica Hauser, Executive Director, Downtown Boxing Gym. The team focuses on meals that incorporate a variety of vegetables and healthy grains – removing barriers to the nutritional supports that students need to thrive. “If you’re well fed, you feel good, and you can go out and do all of the other things you’re interested in. It’s really important for kids,” says Molly Mitchell.

The space also allows the organization to incorporate new educational opportunities. Kids enjoy bi-weekly cooking classes with age-targeted programming. They learn from local chefs who teach about dietary options, culinary styles, and cooking techniques. They explore nutrition as it relates to athletics and healthy living, food budgeting and urban gardening. “Our kids love, love, love cooking classes. Even our high schoolers – if they’re not able to take cooking classes, there are tears, which I never would’ve expected, but it’s amazing,” says Hauser.

One of the hopes is that the students will go home and apply what they learn to their lives with their loved ones. If they are interested in working at a restaurant or running their own food business, they can explore those opportunities and gain some experience in the Downtown Boxing Gym kitchen. “We love showing the students what a career path might look like,” says Hauser. “With the new kitchen, we’ve seen at least a dozen kids become interested in a culinary career. It’s inspiring to contribute to their journey.”


Khali Sweeney and Jessica Hauser Introduce the Walters Family to Chef Molly and the New Commercial KitchenDownload a high-resolution version of this photo.