Updated: May 24, 2022
Jocelyn Ramirez had two UCLA Anderson School of Management students hooked at “East Los Angeles”. While attending the 2022 Plant Futures Symposium as part of the broader Plant Futures Challenge Lab Course, Julia Sweitzer and Erica Weisman, knew that their fellow MBA students needed to know Jocelyn.
During the Plant Futures Symposium, Jocelyn brought attendees into her world, describing how her family struggled with diabetes, a preventable health issue. Wanting to get to the root of the problem brought her to the world of plant-based eating, but she quickly realized the difficulty of doing so when living in East Los Angeles. Quality plant-based ingredients at farmer’s markets and grocery stores found their way mainly to the West side of Los Angeles, which is a trek from neighborhoods in East Los Angeles for those unfamiliar with the transportation dynamics of Los Angeles. Since then, she has dedicated her career to health equity and resilience in communities and has been a force in the movement to make quality affordable food part of that equation in East LA. This has led to a cookbook, a catering company, speaking engagements, and beyond where Jocelyn expresses the need for a food sovereignty movement to decolonize veganism. Through her recipes, menus, and words, Jocelyn covers the cultural roots of plant-based eating in her own family’s Mexican roots.
After hearing Jocelyn’s inspiring journey, Julia and Erica reached out to see if Jocelyn might be open to being a guest of honor for an L48, an event concept meant to bring an industry leader and MBA students together over lunch for eight people. A couple of months later, Jocelyn sat at her friend’s plant-based restaurant, called Amara Kitchen, on the East side of Los Angeles with eight UCLA Anderson students.
Of the lunch experience with Jocelyn, Erica, said “It’s not everyday you get to sit down with someone is actively shaping the LA food scene and re-defining plant-based food. Jocelyn was so powerfully vulnerable and open about her successes and failures as an entrepreneur, chef, and activist!”
“It was surreal to meet Jocelyn in-person after writing down every word I could from her incredibly informative Plant Futures speaker session. As an aspiring entrepreneur and future mission-driven, MBA graduate, getting to ask Jocelyn how she manages such a multi-faceted approach to food sovereignty via business, nonprofit, and government efforts and relationships invigorated me,” said Julia.
Perhaps most exciting was hearing the impact the lunch had on Elisabeth Doody, a fellow UCLA MBA student who couldn’t participate in the Plant Futures Symposium but reaped the benefits of the UCLA connection to Plant Futures and Jocelyn. Elisabeth said, “"Jocelyn Ramirez is a refreshing voice in the plant-based space, championing humility, access, and education in a time when righteousness is all too common. Ramirez is clearly driven by a deep-rooted desire to serve the communities that inspire her, and leaves anyone lucky enough to talk with her feeling optimistic about the democratization of healthy eating"
All eight participants left the conversation full not just from the lovely plant-based meal, but full also of hope and excitement for the future of plant-based eating. UCLA Anderson’s Food & Agriculture Business Association (FABA), of which Julia and Erica are President and Executive Vice President, plans to continue to foster this newfound connection with Jocelyn to best support her worthy efforts. FABA also plans to continue to strengthen its connection to the Plant Futures Initiative to ensure future quality connections in the plant-based foods space like the one formed with Jocelyn.