Aker Ink Content Specialist Taylor Renee Haynes recently joined the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Akasa as a monthly classroom volunteer, where she helped groups of 30+ middle school students create a meal — providing hands-on guidance in preparing the ingredients, utilizing cooking tools and cleaning up. The interactive demonstrations empower students to make easy, healthy and time-efficient dishes at home.

According to Feeding America, 19 percent of Californian children are food insecure. There are thousands of children in Los Angeles alone — surpassing New York City — who don’t have regular access to nutrient-rich foods. Through the Akasa program, students and their families have the opportunity to learn about growing, harvesting and preparing their own food. The organization also welcomes conversations around existing food systems in neighborhoods across the city — especially areas deemed “food deserts” due to a lack of accessible fruits and vegetables — and how all residents can encourage systemic change.

Founded in 2012 through a collaboration of chefs, farmers, artists and activists, Akasa provides curriculum to 200 low-income students aged 6-18 on a weekly basis, reaching more than 7,000 students in a year. In addition, they provide monthly parent workshops.

Taylor Renee became interested in food justice and health disparities when attending Northern Arizona University. She enrolled in a food and journalism class, where she researched and wrote about food deserts in Arizona, hoping to increase awareness about this prevalent problem and the people working against it. She also engaged in investigative work to expose food waste on her university campus. Furthermore, Taylor Renee has published articles about the local food movement, community gardens and worked as a volunteer at a CSA (community supported agriculture) market.  

Volunteering with Akasa allows Taylor Renee to become more involved in her community, learn about food and deepen her knowledge surrounding social justice issues in Los Angeles. She hopes to eventually contribute her writing skills to Akasa through crafting educational materials or blogging.

Learn more about Akasa here.