From left are Richard Garcia, executive director and co-founder of Alma Backyard Farms; Maral Karaccusian, senior human services director for L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn; Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation and co-chair of the Roundtable; Lisa Cleri Reale, chair of the board of Community Partners; and Erica Cuellar, cofounder and operations director at Alma Backyard Farms. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)


Together with government agencies, philanthropies and nonprofits, the organizations seek to end food insecurity in the Southland. 

On Thursday, May 30, Community Partners held a special event at Alma Backyard Farms in Compton to celebrate community-based groups who received federally funded L.A. County grants to help in their work combating food insecurity in Southern California. 

The Greater Los Angeles area has some of the worst food insecurity in the nation. According to statistics, nearly 1 in 3 households suffered from food insecurity last year. Black and Brown residents have disproportionately higher food insecurity rates, nearly 2 to 1 compared to White residents. 

Olympia Auset, founder of Suprmarkt. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

The $9.6 million in grants will fund a wide array of food-related work conducted by local nonprofits to improve access to nutritious and affordable food in communities of color and immigrant populations. The funds have been made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, which earmarked nearly $1.9 billion for Los Angeles’ post-pandemic recovery efforts. Community Partners is overseeing the grant program for the County of Los Angeles. 

L.A. County has responded by creating the Los Angeles County Food Equity Roundtable, a unique partnership of government agencies, philanthropies and nonprofits with the goal of trying to find long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity. The Sentinel spoke to some of the African American and Black organizations who received grants about bringing fresh produce to the community. 

“We provided over 100,000 lbs of organic produce since we started,” said Olympia Auset, founder of Suprmarkt,.  

Carmen Dianne, CEO, and Kara Still, COO, of Prosperity Market. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“We’re just excited to be here with people in the same food equity spaces and to meet the people that are helping us continue our work.”  

Established in 2016, Auset shared why she created Suprmarkt and the importance of having access to fresh produce in the community. 

“I would be on the bus two hours every time I need to get fresh food and once I got there, I couldn’t really afford it and so that was very frustrating for me,” said Auset. 

“I was trying to help my friends eat better and at the same time, people in my life were starting to pass away from preventable disease. 

“Once I realized that they could still be here if they just had access to fresh food, it just made me want to create a situation where I wouldn’t be going to my friends’ and family members’ funerals.” 

Richard Garcia of Alma Backyard Farms speaks to the community-based groups, who received federally funded L.A. County grants to help in their work combating food insecurity. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

Auset is in the process of opening near Crenshaw and Slauson with 100 percent, subsidized organic produce, all thanks to the funding from the grant. 

Kara Still, COO and Carmen Dianne, CEO of Prosperity Market, are also happy to have received a grant to help their endeavors. Still, a fashion designer, and Dianne, a makeup artist, shared how they got involved in the food space. 

“Honestly, it was being in the pandemic, none of us working, we’re just witnessing what’s happening,” said Dianne.  

“We’re seeing the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, and everyone is now incentivized to support Black-owned businesses, which is great and we’re happy to see, but we also want it to be sustainable and to carry on, we don’t want it to just be a moment in time and then go back how it’s always been.” 

Established in 2020, Prosperity Market is a mobile market that features and supports Black farmers, food producers, and chefs. The ladies run a 48-foot trailer featuring a farmer’s market and a kitchen to rent out to different chefs. 

“It’s like a rotating food truck and farmers market in one big pink trailer,” said Dianne. “We built a literal farmers market on wheels.” 

“We travel around L.A. making it easy and convenient to support Black-owned businesses while also creating food access in our communities,” said Still. 

 “California produces the most food in the country, the highest agriculture producing state but Los Angeles has one of the highest food insecurity rates and that doesn’t make sense.  

“One of our goals is to just really be able to be a food hub and have regional food that is feeding Los Angeles,” Still added. 

“What this is doing today is shining a light on a problem in our community that we all have to pay more attention to which is food insecurity,” said Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation and co-chair of the Roundtable. 

“Since January, the demand for food at the LA Food Bank is up 20 percent and we know what inflation is doing to those prices in the supermarket.  

“We have not had these high grocery prices in years so imagine that a person’s going to the supermarkets and they’re trying to feed five kids and a family?”  

Kennard shared that this summer the opening of the first ever food equity office in Los Angeles, a collaboration between public and private partnerships. 

“It’s L.A. philanthropy working with the L.A. County Supervisors, working with the community-based organizations,” said Kennard. “It’s all three of us working together.”  

“We have had an issue of food insecurity in this county for years,” said Lisa Cleri Reale, chair of the board of Community Partners.  

“It’s not pandemic-related, it was here before the pandemic, it still exists post pandemic, but we’ve got this incredible group of talented, smart, innovative people, who have pulled together to try to eradicate this issue.  I love it.” 

“The work we do, it involves people, plants and place, so there’s a power of those three elements working together to create an opportunity for people to thrive,” said Richard Garcia, executive director and co-founder of Alma Backyard Farms, which is celebrating 10 years. 

“I think the thing about food equity is a question of could we create an opportunity for people to thrive especially in places that have historically been disadvantaged?”  

“Farms like this are essential, we need more of them, especially in a city like Los Angeles, we need them everywhere with a continued separation from food,” said Erica Cuellar, cofounder and operations director at Alma Backyard Farms.   

“Alma exists to reclaim lives, repurpose land and reimagine community. Through our work, we really aim at addressing all of those areas and concerns by creating beautiful green spaces through our urban farms, increasing food access and increasing employment and training opportunities for folks who are incarcerated by having folks who tend the farm provide the education.” 

Cuellar continued, “We need to turn back to the land and reconnect to, really, our roots and get our hands back in the soil. 

“We need to put the culture back into agriculture.”  

For more information on Community Partners, visit 

For more information on Alma Backyard Farms, visit 

For more information on Suprmarkt, visit 

For more information on Prosperity Market, visit