The team at Akasa prides itself on efficiency and quality. This program, founded by Ashleigh Parsons in 2012, is led by a group of talented and diverse women that are dedicated to bringing education and awareness to low-income youth in the city of Los Angeles so that they may make informed decisions about their own health and wellness. #accesstohealthyfoodisahumanright
Veda Romero, Director
Veda Romero is the Director of Akasa. Having grown up in Rampart, Veda has seen the challenges that the community faces and would like to offer solutions that can affect widespread, positive change. Veda is passionate about teaching students and their families about sustainability by providing them with tools to live healthier lives. She oversees operations, programming, curriculum development and volunteers coordination for Akasa and she has singlehandedly spearheaded the parent workshops that continue to grow and gain popularity in our program and connect Akasa from the schools to the home.
Nina Anakar, Lead Chef
A daughter of a mother from Ohio and an immigrant father from Morocco, Nina Anakar comes from a long line of hospitality professionals around the world, from serious home cooks and gardeners to general managers and restaurant owners who have taught her how to care for others through food. She spent her formative years living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she came back to the states with a very specific passion for remolachas, chimichurri and chorizo. Some her favorite food memories involve her family’s first visit to her father’s home town of Tangier, where she remembers the taste of the lemony harira at the Minzah Hotel, a kitchen her grandfather had worked in for years. Her family eventually settled in San Diego, California, where Nina grew up gardening, cooking, and caring for animals with her mother. Nina attended the University of Miami and worked front of house in restaurants throughout college. She worked for seven years in brand marketing and event production in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco before deciding to cook professionally. During that time she built community, opened restaurants, produced and catered events for brands, chefs and sommeliers such as Soho House, Sweetgreen, Mark Ladner, Dustin Wilson, Les Grandes Tables du Monde and more. Nina made the professional switch to cooking after returning to study her family’s cuisine in Morocco, attending the New School of Cooking, and staging at Michelin starred restaurant Mourad in San Francisco. Nina’s company, Ziza, offers home cooking and catering services that combine the flavors of her Mediterranean Moroccan heritage with the fresh ingredients that grow in her home of California. Nina is passionate about food’s cultural significance, it’s healing nature and it’s universal ability to bring people together.
Amanda Beattie, Lead farmer
Amanda grew up in LA and has been passionate about cooking and the power of sharing meals from a young age. In college Amanda broadened her knowledge of food, working with the Harvard Food Literacy Project to educate herself and her peers about food systems/food justice issues in the US. This led her to apprentice on an organic vegetable farm in the south of France and later on a farm in Morocco, then to co-manage a 1/4 acre urban farm in Lincoln Heights under the guidance of farmer and artist Britt Browne. Amanda believes that focusing on positive action in our local surroundings is a powerful tool for personal and social transformation, and it is this conviction she hopes to share with students as Lead Gardener at Akasa.
Ashleigh J Parsons, Founder + Chairman of the Board
Ashleigh Parsons was born and raised in New Jersey. She graduated from Colgate University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. Her first job out of college was working in the Tenderloin in San Francisco as a Program Coordinator at a free after school program. Here she became deeply interested in food justice, food deserts and health disparities. With an interest in food and education, she staged at La Chassagnette, a Michelin starred restaurant in the South of France. She graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with a Master’s in Human Development and Psychology and moved to Los Angeles. In 2012, she co-founded Alma Restaurant, which was named Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit Magazine in 2013. In tandem with the restaurant, Ashleigh founded Akasa 501(c)(3) a nonprofit created in response to the lack of healthy food opportunities that exist for low-income youth and families in Los Angeles. Akasa teaches a wellness curriculum to low-income youth and families living in LA. Today, the program is partnered with four charter schools in Rampart and administers a gardening and cooking curriculum to over 200 students each week. Ashleigh left Alma in 2017 and joined Jon+Vinny's Restaurant Group as Service Director. She currently works as a Freelance Consultant in LA.