Inglewood restaurant offers meat-free meals in a sea of fast food options

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imageLatisha Jordan stands in front of the grill at Stuff I Eat heating up some tortillas.

“I’m making mixed tacos,” she explains. “There’s wild rice and tofu mixed together, with S.I.E. [Stuff I Eat] sauce and with medium, mild, or spicy salsa, and then kale with carrot mango dressing.”

Jordan works for her aunt and uncle at Stuff I Eat, the only vegan restaurant in Inglewood with her cousin Danielle Horton. Both cousins are vegan for health reasons.

Horton went from a size 18/22 to size 8 after giving up meat, she says. “It was seeing my family members, my mom, my dad, some of my cousins, all overweight, having diabetes, high blood pressure at an early age, I was headed in that direction.”

The Center for Disease and Control reports that the African American community has an obesity rate of 36 percent, which is higher than either Hispanics or whites.

Horton saw an alternative in her aunt and uncle, Ron and Babette Davis, who opened Stuff I Eat in 2008. They see themselves as missionaries of a vegan diet in a neighborhood full of fast food restaurants, she says.

“People were always saying why did you guys open up in Inglewood? You guys would make a killing in Santa Monica or Venice, but we live here, so we thought this would be a good place to have a healthy alternative for our community,” Horton says.

Not everyone in the community is convinced.

“We’ve had people walk in and walk right out,” Horton says. “But a lot of it is still it’s the breaking through the habits and traditions that have been passed down. That’s the big main challenge. People think they can’t live without meat.”

Customer Makeda Cowan is trying to learn to be a strict vegetarian for health reasons, but she says the food also just tastes good.

“My favorite when I come is the something-something, which is a variety of almost everything, and I like it spicy,” Cowan says. “The community needs it. There’s too many people sick and obese, and it’s because of fast food, not knowing what to eat. It’s old school to me, it’s how I grew up. I didn’t have my first burger until I was 22 and I didn’t like it.”

Vegans still may be rare in the African American community, but Stuff I Eat has found its niche. It is opening an event space next door to the restaurant in 2012.

Free health Clinic a ‘Band-Aid’ Fix to Uninsurance Problem

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image Nearly 5,000 people will descend on the LA Sports Arena from Thursday to Sunday this week – not to see a game, but to see a doctor.
CareNow is hosting its fourth large scale health care clinic this weekend.

But Donald Manelli, CareNow’s president and founder, would like to see the event becomes obsolete.

“It’s kind of an ad hoc solution to a problem that one hopes will go away eventually,” he said. “It’s kind of a barn-raising. It’s kind of the community coming together to help people in great need.”

More than 2 million people in Los Angeles are uninsured, and another 2 million are on Medicaid.

Shana Alex Lavarreda of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research says that the clinic is a Band-Aid approach, but still necessary.

“We need some extra Band-Aid to at least to get us through at least some initial period before health care reform will hopefully cover many of these uninsured people in a good health insurance program,” she said. “But it’s certainly not an ideal situation. We need something more sustainable. We need something that can actually be a system over time that can handle the capacity of the health care needs of the population of Los Angeles.”

Nina Vaccaro, executive director of the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, says that connecting people with a medical home where they can get regular services is essential.

“In a perfect world, eventually I would like to see that we don’t have a need for these episodic events,” she said. “But right now that need is so great. The services that these clinics have are comprehensive but limited. Our clinics are doing the best that they can but they’ve got lines around the block every morning.”

Patients who need follow up treatment will be connected with local clinics.

LA School Board unanimously passes teen dating violence resolution

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imageThe LA Unified School District Board unanimously passed a resolution to prevent dating violence today.

Just two weeks after the murder of a young girl by her boyfriend, the school board’s vote took on added poignancy.

Board Member Steve Zimmer, who sponsored the resolution, isn’t sure the resolution would have prevented Cindi Santana’s death. She was killed September 30 at South East High School. Her ex-boyfriend, Abraham Lopez, is in custody for allegedly stabbing her.

“Policy is not consolation, and policy can’t reverse the tragedy,” Zimmer said at a press conference before the school board meeting. “But what we’re trying to do today is make sure that anywhere in this district, when someone comes forward, or a family comes over, that school will have the resources to make sure this never happens again.”

The resolution will expand the programs of Peace Over Violence, a non-profit organization that run violence prevention programs in a number of schools. Each school will have a violence prevention coordinator, and students will learn about health relationships.

“Trauma interferes with learning,” Patti Giggans, the group’s executive director, says. “Children do not invent violence they learn it from living in the adult that we have created for them. If violence is learned, it can be unlearned.”

The board passed the resolution unanimously on consent, but the funding has yet to be secured. The program will cost $2 million dollars a year, Zimmer says.

“We’re funding teacher evaluation reform; we’re funding contract reform; and we’re funding all types of reform. You can’t reform anything if kids aren’t safe,” Zimmer says. “This is not words on a piece of paper, this is about changing things on the ground at school.”

Peace Over Violence will continue to work with Zimmer’s office to resolve funding.

Starbucks shares profits with Los Angeles Urban League

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imageA Starbucks on Crenshaw Boulevard will share $100,000 with the Los Angeles Urban League this year as part of a pilot profit-sharing program.

The coffee giant’s charity grew out of the community after another local Starbucks was closed. Chris Strudwick-Turner, vice president of marketing and communications at the Urban League, says the closure sparked a conversation between the community and Starbucks.

“To [Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz’ credit, he listened,” Strudwick-Turner say. “The decision was not reversed to reopen the store [but they did] really come in a positive big way in the community to say, we hear you. What are the needs? How can I help?”

Starbucks wasn’t immune from criticism when it closed 600 stores a few years ago. Some complained that the closures were made in neighborhoods that most needed the boost from business.

The Crenshaw Boulevard Starbucks is one of a handful of locations in South LA. In other neighborhoods, the coffee shop can be found every few blocks.

Still, Strudwick-Turner says Schultz has shown a personal commitment to Crenshaw. “I think that Mr. Schultz really has a game plan about creating jobs,” she says. “The genuineness about the needs of this community is not in question.”

The announcement of the profit-sharing initiative comes a day after Schultz announced the new “Create Jobs for USA” initiative, which will help small business secure loans. Schultz has also urged other business leaders to step up hiring.

“The focus will be on how can this store and how can Starbucks better serve park mesa heights and be a part of the community and not just be in the community,” Strudwick-Turner says. “If other corporations…do the same thing, it could be a real win-win for the community.”

The Urban League plans to use the funds for education and youth programming at Crenshaw High School. Strudwick-Turner hopes the profit sharing initiative will be the beginning of partnership.

Gay activists celebrate end of DADT and look to the future

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Gay and lesbian members of the military celebrated the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which went into effect at midnight last night. Activists in Los Angeles, however, are worried the repeal won’t end discrimination.

Marine Corps veteran Tom Carpenter is a board member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Never in the course of our history since 1776 has an American in uniform been able to say I’m gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” he said.

Military officials say the end of the 18-year-old ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy will be a smooth transition.

Carpenter, who was at a press conference at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, said there still will be some rough spots. “There’s no provision for non-discrimination in this law. All this law did is bring us back to 1993.”

In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that 97 percent of the 2.3 million service members have been trained about the implementation of the repeal. He said there is a zero tolerance policy for harassment.

“Coming out remains our number one weapon against homophobia and finally service members who do so no longer need to fear for their jobs,” Jim key, chief public affairs officer of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, said.

Carpenter estimates that 65,000 active duty, national guard and reserve forces could be affected by the repeal. This doesn’t include transgendered people, however. The defense of marriage act is also a stumbling block for the military, Carpenter said.

“In one fell swoop the world has changed,” he said. “In spite of that fact there’s still more that needs to be done.”

Activists are still fighting to gain the same marriage benefits as straight troops.