Food Day LA 2014: Good Food Champions of Los Angeles

As part of the Food Day LA festivities on October 21, 2014, each Council District has honored a Good Food Champion from their district. The Champions are outstanding constituents who are working to promote Good Food in their communities – food that is healthy, affordable, fair, and sustainable.


Councilmember Gil Cedillo (Council District 1):

Theresa Farthing, L.A. Kitchen’s “first hire” graduate

Formerly incarcerated, Ms. Farthing participated in LA Kitchen’s 15-week culinary program and is now L.A. Kitchen’s first graduate hire. L.A. Kitchen believes that neither food nor people should ever go to waste, and uses food to empower, nourish, and engage the community. L.A. Kitchen’s 15-week culinary arts and nutrition advocacy training program breaks systemic patterns of poverty and recidivism by providing opportunities to those who face the greatest barriers to success. Through the culinary training, Ms. Farthing gravitated toward using ‘food as medicine,’ and now not only makes educated food choices and lives a healthy lifestyle herself now, she is also actively encouraging her family, peers, and community to do the same.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (Council District 2):

Rick Nahmias, Founder and Executive Director of Food Forward

Ricka Nahmias is the Executive Director of Food Forward, a volunteer powered grassroots group of Angelenos who care about reconnecting our food system and making a change around urban hunger. Since 2009 Food Forward has recovered and donated over 5.25 million pounds of fresh local produce that would have otherwise ended up in landfills – 100% has gone to over 200 agencies feeding the needy across five SoCal Counties. Before founding Food Forward in 2009, Rick was an award-winning professional photographer, writer and filmmaker whose work focused on the faces and stories of marginalized communities. His formal training as a cook, along with his exploration of California’s agricultural workforce in his body of work entitled “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers,” gave him a deep appreciation and understanding of high-end cooking and the food justice worlds.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield (Council District 3):  

Follow Your Heart Market

Founded in 1970, Follow Your Heart Market and Restaurant in Canoga Park is committed to demonstrating leadership in the ethical, social and environmental responsibilities of operating a business. In addition to their beloved vegetarian café menu and natural foods market, Follow Your Heart produces several branded products including veganaise and other dairy alternative products, which are manufactured at their state-of-the-art, solar powered facility called Earth Island and distributed nationally.

Councilmember Paul Koretz (Council District 5):

Stephanie Hong, Real Food Company

Ms. Hong is the owner and chief operating officer of the natural grocery store chain, Real Food Company.  With 14 years of experience in the health food industry, Ms. Hong is committed to being a force in educating consumers on the importance of healthy food sources.   In 2013, Ms. Hong, was recognized by the Worldwide Who’s Who for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in natural foods. Real Food Company supports, whenever possible, organic and sustainable agriculture, and environmentally sensitive consumerism. According to their website, the company sees themselves as “a link between the considerate production of natural food products and the growing numbers of neighbors who are seeking to participate in supporting that process.”

Councilmember Nury Martinez (Council District 6):

SOVA Community Food and Resource Program

An initiative of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, SOVA responds to hunger in the community by providing individuals and families with the resources they need to regain self-sufficiency and independence, including free groceries, case management, counseling, and other supportive services, such as legal counseling and job search assistance. Much more than a food pantry, JFS SOVA provides free groceries and an array of supportive services to over 12,000 individuals of all ages, ethnicities and religions each month.

Councilmember Felipe Fuentes (Council District 7):

Laura Robledo, MEND Grow Together Project Coordinator and Certified Master Gardener

Laura Robledo is the MEND Grow Together Project Coordinator and a Certified Master Gardener, with a degree in Political Science from California State University Northridge.  Driven in part by a desire to give back to her community, Ms. Robledo has been working for over five years as an activist and organizer around issues of food justice and urban agriculture in the NE San Fernando Valley. Through MEND’s Grow Together Project she has worked to catalyze a community of home edible gardeners, which is now over 125 families strong. Prior to joining MEND she worked as the coordinator of the Project Youth Green Community Garden with its 60 families.

Councilmember Bernard Parks (Council District 8):

Daphne Bradford, CEO and founder of Mother of Many and organizer of the Crenshaw High School Farmers Market

Daphne Bradford is the founder and president of the non-profit organization Mother Of Many (M.O.M.).  Mother Of Many is the managing partner of the Crenshaw High School Garden.  Since 2010, Mother Of Many has been supporting First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to help fight childhood obesity.  Its healthy eating mission is to provide fresh food choices to students, teachers, parents and residents in the 8th District. Under Ms. Bradford’s leadership Mother Of Many has revitalized and redesigned the Crenshaw High School garden, opened a weekly Farmers’ Market on Saturday’s and launched a Botanical Engineering program to introduce high school students to botany, irrigation design and environmental engineering.  The goal of the program is to expose students to various college and career opportunities focused on science and engineering.

Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. (Council District 9):

Nelson Garcia, Owner of Alba Snacks & Services Market

Mr. Garcia was born and raised in Guatemala City.  He came to the US at the age of 20 and thereafter established himself as an entrepreneur. In March of this year, through public and private partnerships, including the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, Mr. Garcia completed the conversion of his South LA convenience store into a healthy food neighborhood market.  Named after his beloved wife, and themed with Guatemalan colors and textiles, his market is now called Alba Snacks & Services and offers an array of healthy snacks as well as affordable internet and remittance services. He is proud to provide these options to his diverse client base of high school and junior high school students, Latino immigrants, and African American residents.  Mr. Garcia is now driven to do more to meet the pressing need for improved healthy food options in his community by replicating this model into a chain of small stores across Los Angeles. His “market makeover” project is an example of the kind of neighborhood revitalization that lifts up the power of local residents while expanding access to healthy food.

Council President Herb Wesson (Council District 10):

Ron Finley, The Gangsta Gardener, International Speaker, and Founder of The Ron Finley Project

IMG_2243Ron Finley grows a nourishing food culture in South Central L.A.s food desert by planting the seeds and tools for healthy eating. Mr. Finley’s vision for a healthy, accessible food forest started with the curbside veggie garden he planted in the strip of dirt in front of his own house. When the city tried to shut it down, Finley’s fight gave voice to a larger movement that provides nourishment, empowerment, education — and healthy, hopeful futures — one urban garden at a time. Ron’s plight to grow food in front of his home in South Central garnered international support after his TED talk went viral, having generated over a million views. Ron is planning to build an urban garden in South Central LA that will serve as an example of a well-balance, fruit and veggie oasis- called “HQ.” HQ will create a myriad of jobs for local residents, and this plot of land will be self-sufficient ecosystem of gardening, education, cooking, business learning and management.

Councilmember Mike Bonin (Council District 11):

Ryland Engelhart, Kiss the Ground

Kiss the Ground is an organization that educates, advocates and demonstrates the crucial importance of soil to public health and the future of our planet. Kiss the Ground is currently creating a food forest, demonstration garden, and gathering space on Venice Blvd in the Venice Arts Plaza. This project is scheduled for completion next year and will demonstrate different methods of growing food in contaminated city soils, several ways to compost, and methods for organic gardening and sensible water use.  Kiss the Ground co-founder, president and fundraising chair, Ryland Engelhart co-created the award winning documentary Film, “May I Be Frank” and leads workshops on sacred commerce, relationships, and communication.



Councilmember Mitchell Englander (Council District 12):

JoEllen Murata, Coordinator of FISH Food Pantry

JoEllen Murata is a Registered Nurse and tireless volunteer coordinator for FISH of West Valley, a food pantry in Chatsworth that has been providing food and a helping hand to low income, homeless and stranded travelers in the West Valley since 1972.  The food pantry is staffed by dedicated volunteers from all faiths and supported by a coalition of churches and community organizations.   Ms. Murata recently participated in an Interfaith Community Summit as a panelist on the topic of Food Distribution and Food Pantries and Kitchens.


Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (Council District 13):

Matthew Sharp, Food Policy Advocate & LA Food Policy Council Leadership Board Member

Mr. Sharp is a seasoned food policy advocate and expert. Mr. Sharp recently culminated an outstanding 17 year tenure as Senior Advocate for the California Food Policy Advocates, where he led the organization’s efforts throughout Los Angeles County to expand access to and increase participation and quality in the federal nutrition safety net, such as Food Stamps, Child Care Food Program and School Breakfast.  He provides regular commentary in the Los Angeles Times and has provided analysis on ABC News, CNN and the Fox News Channel.  Mr. Sharp serves on the Board of Hunger Action LA and on the Leadership Board of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. Mr. Sharp is also member of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council where he chairs the Parks, Public Works and Environmental Concerns Committee.



Councilmember Jose Huizar (Council District 14):

Irene Peña, Proyecto Jardin

Irene Peña is the Executive Director of Proyecto Jardin, which is committed to health, environment and community policy advocacy to mobilize collective action for a better tomorrow.  Since its creation, Proyecto Jardin has been a wellspring of nutrition for the residents of Boyle Heights, providing healthy, organic food for local residents as well as green space to use for gardening and other recreational activities to promote healthier lifestyles.  Situated on land owned by the White Memorial Hospital Medical Center, Proyecto Jardin also works closely with hospital patients through its four pillars of healing: healthful eating, exercise, herbal medicine and community.


Councilmember Joe Buscaino (Council District 15):

Watts Healthy Farmers Market Collaborative

The Watts Healthy Farmers’ Market, in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente, serves a very diverse customer base and continues to grow in both attendance and reputation as a market that is outstanding in the quality of the fresh food that is offered every Saturday. Located in Ted Watkins Park, the Market hosts approximately 7-10 local farmers as well as a variety of fresh food purveyors. The Watts Healthy Farmers’ Market has always been a leader in helping educate the neighborhood and community about healthy cooking and wise food choices. Healthy cooking courses are held-onsite throughout the year and are usually part of a larger community event around holidays or other neighborhood celebrations and observances.