This Mid-City power couple and their children, work hand in glove to help their community.
TNN: How long have you been married?
TNN: What drew you to each other when you first met?
Steve:Lisa was beautiful and she still is, just a beautiful woman, and just a great spirit. Bright, smart, and could talk to anybody.
Lisa:When I met Steve, he was absolutely the handsomest man to me on the plain planet. He was soft-spoken and charming, and hard-working, and from the day I laid eyes on him, I knew hewas the one. And he was brutally ... no, sweetly honest. Always and still does, want to do the right thing and I love that about him. And he cooks really well.
Steve:Thank you sweetie.
TNN:You have three kids and what are their ages now?
Lisa:They are all grown up. There is Steve Jr., Anthony and Gabriella.
TNN:You are looking good!! You said you started your activism fifteen years ago. What got you started?
Lisa:We had kids and it was just a natural thing to have your children do community service of any type.
Steve:We were also involved in the neighborhood because neighborhood councils were just starting up. I was the first president of the Mid City Neighborhood Council. It lasted 6 years. Our kids came to meetings, and participated in all the events, clean-ups and things like that. From there, we met a lot of different people from the city, government officials and just continued on with that.
Lisa:But before that we had started Cooking with Gabby.
TNN:Explain to our readers what this is.
Lisa:Cooking with Gabby is a non-profit organization wwith a mission is to educate children, from the earliest possible age, and their families about how to stay healthy. We do obesity prevention, nutrition education.
Lisa:All over. Parks, community centers. Now we work with LAUSD and have programs in three schools, a nutrition program and after school program where Steve and [daughter] Gabby go out and teach children kindegarden through five how to eat healthy. We also have a physical activity program in the schools that starts in the morning so our kids start the day with their endorphins up. They have a lot of fun learning how to be active and healthy.
TNN:How did you get this program started?
Steve:When I had a catering business I would pick my daughter Gabby up from school and take her to my kitchen. She would watch me make food and always ask questions. "Why are you doing it this way, dad? Show me." She was five years old. "Show me how to crack an egg," We just started cooking together, and then I came to Lisa and I said, "Lisa, Gabby has all these questions. Let's start a website and teach kids about cooking." Then we saw that there was an issue with obesity in children, and we said, "You know what? Let's do a healthy cooking class.". As Lisa said, we started in parks and now we do our cooking class in classrooms, and auditoriums. It’s normally twenty kids and all the recipes are interactive. We do a lot of different things. We’ll bake. Gabby went to Japan, and she took this sushi class, and she came back and we did rolls. Sushi rolls with all vegetables, all vegetarian. Then we'll do hummus. Pea pesto. Kids loved it. They went bonkers for it. We served that with celery sticks.
TNN:These are recipes or foods that kids don't normally get to try out?
Lisa:Correct. That's the objective. We teach kids that food comes from Africa, South America or Mexico to the United States.
TNN: How did the physical activity get started?
Steve: We figured that there was something missing because there were a lot of children that weren't exercising. They were doing stuff on their computers and staying home, watching TV. I said, "You know what? These kids need to get out. They need to move.” So we put together a dance team with six dancers, and created a road show and went to different parks. The kids would join us and we saw that they loved to dance and get engaged.
Lisa: All of our dance instructors have taught kids at other dance schools. The principals love it.
Steve: So from there, we said, "Let's create a program" and we created the Cooking with Gabby program.
Lisa: We approached the schools many times over the years, but we wound up with an opportunity through a grant we had received from Community Health Councils.
TNN: How many kids are you reaching?
Steve: We do four classes per group of twenty students four days a week. At the different schools. This last year we reached I think a total of eight hundred students between all three schools. I'm Chef Steve to them. The kids get a recipe at the end of the class, take it home, and we get parents who come and say, "I made this recipe over the weekend. It was really good." Some of our parents come and join this class, which is great. We like that.
Lisa: We participate in the open houses so that we get to meet the parents.
TNN: As if this wasn’t enough, you are also producing a movie about homeless youth.
Steve:We made a movie a couple of years ago called "Sugar," about a homeless girl. It was written and directed by our friend Rotimi Rainwater. Our lead was an actresss named Shanae Grimes (from 90210) and she played a character that had PTSD and wound up on the streets. She ended up in Los Angeles, in Venice and Hollywood which is where the kids normally hang out. It’s about how she ends up creating a family with homeless youth, which happens a lot.
TNN:Is that the movie you are doing now?
Steve:No. We screened it in a bunch of different cities, and we asked different organizations that work with homeless youth to come out and bring some of the homeless youth to see the movie. They did, and each time we did a Q&A afterwards the kids were like, "This is exactly how we feel." "How can you help us? What can you do for us?" So we sat down and asked ourselves what we could do to help these kids and decided to do a documentary on homeless youth. We called it "Lost in America,.” Our team went to sixteen different cities to document the youth and the issues they were going through, talk to government officials, city officials, any organization that was working with homeless youth. It was a two-year journey and we just finished the last edits.
Lisa:Our son Steven Jr. was the primary photographer and producer.
Steve: He did a great job. It's going to be a beautiful film. Hopefully we'll get it into a festival so people can see it. Our congress members said that they liked the film because it clarifies the issues.
Steve:Hopefully when people see Lost In America, it will raise awareness and the elected officials will get phone calls because there is so much to be done. Karen Bass was one of our biggest supporters.
TNN:Now…as if this wasn’t enough, you have another great project. H2BLD, right?
Lisa:H2BLD, House 2 House Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. TNN: How did that come about?
Lisa: We're very social and love to eat very healthy. We also enjoy in-home experiences, so we thought if AirBnB can do something of that nature, we can do H2BLD. We wanted to find a way for people to enjoy socializing through food, and provide a way for people to build a small business. A shared economy.
TNN: How does it work?
Lisa:People log on to our website, and we have hosts and guests. The host will host a meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, in their home, or apartment, or a venue of their choice. If someone is interested in hosting, we go out and vet them to make sure that it's a nice place. We ask them to create a dietary theme and a social theme. That dietary theme may be healthy, vegan, gluten-free, barbecue. The social theme might be Thanksgiving dinner, Caribbean Carnival, Vision Boarding. Then they set the price point, buy the food based on the sign ups and cook it.
TNN: So the guests go on the site, look at the ones they like, and sign up.
Lisa: Yes, exactly. It's been amazing and is growing fast. We have H2BLD's pretty much between northern and southern California now. We've even had one international H2BLD in Spain. We launched in December, and we just seem to be growing. Our app is going to be out in August.
Steve: We have aspiring chefs that will do dinners. People that love to cook. People that have their grandmother's spaghetti recipe that's amazing, and we're going to do that. We have restaurant chefs that want to try out different foods, new foods, that will do something. The other thing that's very important, Dianne, is that we also created this to really get people to start looking at eating organic and non-GMO. We are creating a chain of local farmers and people that produce, meat, things like that, for our hosts to choose from. We have created a network of organic food producers.
TNN: Those are three big projects. How do you find the time?
Lisa:We struggle with time a lot, but we have been very good at divide and conquer.
Established in August of 2008 by writer, artist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.