Interview with Farm to Chopsticks Awardee Carol Lee

At Farm to Chopsticks on August 10th, we are recognizing three AMAZING people who help make our work possible. One of those is Carol Lee!

Carol Lee has devoted her entire professional career to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and is currently a member of the grants management team at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. In her free time, she manages the Circle of Change, a giving circle that supports Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations working to make a positive change within AAPI communities located in the Los Angeles, Orange County or Inland Empire areas. Carol is a native Angeleno who cherishes all the diversity and good food that LA has to offer. She also enjoys Fitbit challenges, the occasional half-marathon, and overanalyzing her favorite TV shows and movies.

Here’s a fun interview we had with Carol:

How did you first get connected with Forward Movement (then APIOPA)?

I first learned about APIOPA/Forward Movement through a mutual friend, Sissy Trinh.  She told me about your CSA program and I ended up signing up.  That was I think 5 years ago?

It’s been quite a few years! What keeps you involved with this scrappy nonprofit? 

The CSA program was great. My mom certainly appreciated the freshness of the vegetables. By the time the Historic Filipinotown location was discontinued, my involvement changed. I had nominated APIOPA for funding through my giving circle for several years and saw the organization’s growth over time.  I had made new friends and now I look forward to the monthly hikes.

Carol rocking it on local public radio interview with KPCC

As a former Roots Community Supported Agriculture subscriber, can you share what your experience was like with this program? Why should someone consider joining the CSA? 

I really liked the program when I was a subscriber for several seasons. At the time, I lived with my mother so the vegetables were primarily for her use, but I got to enjoy the fruits of her labor! She would always remark that she could tell the difference between the CSA vegetables and the ones she bought at Asian markets. She looked forward to the Sunday pickups. The CSA was also a good way to be introduced to unfamiliar vegetables and APIOPA/Forward Movement would provide tips on ways to cook them. Lastly, I felt good about supporting Asian farmers. I would still be a subscriber now if it were more convenient with my schedule but that hasn’t worked out yet.

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CSUN graduate student discusses El Monte history, development

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Dat Tran, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge, is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to the Asian American immigrant experience. The El Monte native, who participated in APIFM’s Bike to China program in 2013, has conducted extensive research on the history of Asian Americans in his hometown.

In June 2016, the city of El Monte partnered with Metro and other organizations to host Viva SGV Open Streets, and event during which streets in El Monte and South El Monte were closed off from cars for five hours. The purpose was to allow residents to reclaim the space, enjoying recreational activities in their city without having to worry about traffic.

APIFM (APIOPA at the time) was involved with Viva SGV, leading a bike tour of the city that featured Asian American history. Tran, who did the research for the tour, spent several months on the project, uncovering numerous tidbits in the process. For example, he discovered that there used to be a Japanese-owned vegetable stand on Valley Boulevard, right next to where El Monte’s city hall currently stands.

“I had to consult our local museums, I had to dig in into the weirdest parts of the internet that is not well known just to try to find snippets of Asian American existence,” Tran said.

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APIFM Pop-Up Markets!

In efforts to make fresh and affordable produce accessible to our neighborhoods, APIFM launched pop-up markets at KYCC’s Menlo Family Apartments in Koreatown (July 10) and PWC’s Larry Itliong Village in Historic Filipinotown (July 24). Local residents selected from the fresh produce provided by local farmers who are part of Roots Food Hub, a food justice project of API Forward Movement. A variety of choices were provided to the residents including baby bok choy, cucumbers, carrots, grape tomatoes, nectarines and peaches. APIFM subsidized produce costs by 50% to help make these locally grown produce affordable! All produce was sold out at both pop-up markets with residents eagerly asking for more!

All vegetables were sustainably grown, pesticide free and sourced from Padao Farms located in Fresno, CA. All fruits were certified organic and sourced from Ken’s Top Notch produce located in Reedley, CA. For more information about the Roots Food Hub program please visit: www.apifm.org/rootsfoodhub

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Little Tokyo HEAL Festival

On Saturday, July 22nd, APIFM hosted a Healthy Eating & Active Living (HEAL) Community Festival in Little Tokyo at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in partnership with Sustainable Little Tokyo (SLT) and the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC). The event opened with Tai Chi & Qi Gong exercises lead by Jacqueline Rice (who teaches free classes every Monday from 6:50pm to 7:50pm at Casa Heiwa) in the beautiful Japanese garden at the JACCC. This was followed by a healthy fruit smoothie demo, a brief nutrition education on how to read nutrition labels, and a healthy cooking demo lead by three amazing aunties of Little Tokyo (Patty Nagano, Amy Honjiyo, and Kathy Masaoka). The food demo included a simple quinoa summer salad with blueberries and a lemon vinaigrette as well as a healthier take on a Japanese favorite (onigiri or rice balls).

Instead of using white rice the aunties demonstrated how people could substitute sprouted brown rice for their musubi/onigiri instead and shared about the added healthy benefits of using sprouted brown rice over white rice.

The event also provided Japanese and Spanish interpretation. To be included in events like these, be sure to subscribe to APIFM and JACCC’s facebook page or visit our website: www.apifm.org.

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Local student discusses park access in Alhambra, Monterey Park

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Carmen Chen, Mark Keppel High School Class of 2017, has spent her entire life in Monterey Park — a city that is over 50% Asian. Her parents immigrated from Guangzhou, China, before she was born in search of a better life. Chen, who is fluent in both Cantonese and English, will attend the University of California, Irvine in the fall.

In high school, Chen was part of a club known as Promoting Youth Advocacy (PYA) — a group of students that partnered with APIFM (then APIOPA). PYA educated its participants on social issues such as environmental justice and planned park cleanups. At one cleanup, the group collected trash at Almansor Park with gloves, trash bags and other supplies provided by APIFM.

Chen considers Almansor Park, a 22-acre park in Alhambra, the nicest, most spacious park in her area. Only five to 10 minutes from where she lives, the park has a pond, a golf course and ample space for people to run. Yet despite the generous size of Almansor Park, Alhambra only has a total of 78 acres of park space — 0.9 acres per 1,000 residents. This is in contrast to the county average of 3.3 acres per 1,000.

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El Monte environmental justice advocate discusses parks, bikes and access to the San Gabriel Mountains

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Amy J. Wong fell in love with nature in her family’s backyard, where her grandmother had planted fruit trees of all sorts: jujube, kumquat, guava. It was among those trees and more that she grew up hearing stories of her grandmother’s past in Cambodia and Vietnam. But it wasn’t until her college days at the University of California, Berkeley, that she discovered the world of environmentalism and environmental justice.

In addition to the sustainability initiatives that the Berkeley community embraced, Wong was introduced to case studies of cities such as Oakland and Richmond in environmental health classes. She learned about such cities as places in need of environmental justice, not realizing until she returned home from college that her native El Monte was the perfect example of an environmental justice community.

El Monte, located in the San Gabriel Valley, is a particularly park-poor neighborhood. In addition to its lack of green space, the city is surrounded by freeways and has some of the worst air quality in the nation, according to Wong.

“We’re surrounded by the 10, the 605 and the 60,” Wong said. “[The freeways] become like the clogged arteries of the neighborhood.”

The parks that El Monte does have are often flanked by one of these surrounding freeways. Fletcher Park, for instance, is directly adjacent to both the 10 freeway and the El Monte Bus Station — what Wong described as the largest bus station west of the Mississippi.

The San Gabriel Valley Greenway Network is an initiative intended to restore balance to the area, hoping to transform storm channels, washes and creeks into a network of multi-use paths. The paths, in addition to providing space for residents to walk and bike, would connect neighboring communities — and the parks in those communities — lessening the need for cars.

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Community organizer discusses life as a senior in Little Tokyo

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Yasue Clark, a community organizer at Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), works with low-income seniors who live in affordable housing units in Little Tokyo. She has worked at LTSC for the past seven years, advocating for seniors who are ill-equipped to raise their own voice.

About 800 seniors live in Little Tokyo, according to Clark. Most are monolingual, speaking either Japanese or Korean.

“Because they’re monolingual and also [because] they’re low-income, their voice hardly ever gets heard,” Clark said. “Most of them are invisible.”

Clark, a Tokyo native, does not speak Korean, so she primarily works with the Japanese-speaking seniors. Nevertheless, she does her best to organize activities for the seniors, planning crafts, workshops and field trips. She hopes to take them to the Downtown Women’s Center soon in an attempt to address misconceptions they may have about the homeless.

Compared to Tokyo, Los Angeles is much less pedestrian oriented; far fewer people walk on LA streets. Clark believes insufficient public transportation is a major contributing factor to LA’s excess of cars, which, in turn, makes the city less hospitable to pedestrians.

“Most of the time it feels like cars have the right of way, not pedestrians,” Clark said.

Furthermore, many sidewalks are poorly maintained, with exposed tree roots that pose a tripping hazard and nonfunctional street lights that make residents feel unsafe after dark.

Little Tokyo, though, is a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood than most in LA. Both a grocery store and a medical center with doctors’ offices, a pharmacy and a blood testing lab are within walking distance for senior residents.

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Biking enthusiast discusses cycling in Los Angeles, Orange County

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Most days, Viet Bui commutes by bike to his job as an academic advisor at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he has worked for the past three years. He only recently rediscovered his passion for cycling since leaving the corporate banking world in 2012, returning to school for a master’s degree in education.

Bui did not learn how to ride a bike until the age of 11 or 12, when he was finally motivated to teach himself after watching other kids on the block. Eventually, he began to ride to school and on boy scout cycling trips. Now, Bui considers himself a biking enthusiast who cycles both for the health benefits of the sport and as a means of stress relief. He usually prefers to ride solo, citing the opportunity for contemplation and meditation that cycling alone allows him.

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Dog lover discusses parks and bikes in Los Angeles versus Tokyo

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Ranko Fukuda has a foot in two different worlds. Having grown up in both Tokyo and Los Angeles, she has a multicultural background that gives her a unique take on her surroundings.

Fukuda’s background is in banking; she worked with Capital One straight out of college, where she stayed for over a decade. Now, she works in the nonprofit world, running an adult education program that trains underserved adults to begin a career in banking. She made the switch after moving to LA from the East Coast, following her 2011 stint in Japan to aid tsunami recovery efforts.

Thoughtful and reflective, Fukuda notices differences in even the mundane aspects of life in each city. Tokyo citizens, for example, are generally diligent about not leaving trash behind, despite the reduced number of trash cans in the city. This is in sharp contrast to the hot Cheetos bags that litter the sidewalks near her residence, presumably left there by students from one of the three schools in the area.

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Great Streets director discusses Los Angeles transportation, draws comparisons to New York

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Naomi Iwasaki, a Los Angeles native, is a self-proclaimed transportation nerd.

“You know how people talk about an acting bug? You act and you just get bit by this bug and you love it and you want to be an actor? I think that there’s a transportation nerd bug also, and that some people just love maps and love buses and love the way that people circulate throughout a city. I’m one of those nerds,” Iwasaki said.

As such, she is well-suited for her job as director of neighborhood services and Great Streets at the office of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, where she works with city departments such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) to oversee projects designed to improve street safety, design and development.

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