LaTanya Ward is taking the term “comfort food” literally.  Every week, Ward makes hundreds of containers of banana pudding to deliver or to sell at local pop-ups.

It isn’t her love of pudding that inspires her to spend 10 hours making 200 containers of pudding—it’s her love and her desire to comfort the people in her community.

Ward is from the South Central/Baldwin Hills area. Her father moved to Long Beach, off of Seventh Street and Temple Avenue, when she was young.

Not long after, she realized the environment she grew up in—and the color of her skin—meant she would not receive the same allowances as other children.

Ward says a lot of her Black classmates were funneled into the justice system. “That is my story as well,” says Ward. Instead of counseling, Ward says she received her first criminal case in school at the age of 12 years old.

Eventually, Ward took part in gang life, which earned her a two-year prison sentence for marijuana possession.  Once she was released, there were little to no resources at her disposal, and she was expected to fail.

Instead, Ward immediately found a job, went back to school, and earned her degree in community planning and economic development. After completing a Skid Row internship working with people experiencing homelessness and those with mental illness, Ward found her passion: changing the lives of former Black gang members.

Ward founded Filthy Rich Banana Pudding in 2014 to fund another project of hers, the G.U.T.T. Healing Circles for the community—the acronym stands for “gaining unity through transformation,” and the healing sessions include team building, therapeutic exercises and an ear to listen.

“I want to be an inspiration. I want to be known for something good,” says Ward. While she is excited to help the Black Community, her goal is to make sure those she comes in contact with have the tools to help themselves.

“I hope to assist people with personally developing,” says Ward. “I believe that they’ll seek and find any other opportunities. I think that the sky is the limit after the elevation of the mind.”

Filthy Rich Banana Pudding is featured in this year’s Black Restaurant Week which runs through January 29th.  To find out more about the event, visit the Black Restaurant Week Instagram page here.

Filthy Rich Banana is available for delivery and is sold at pop-ups Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To find the next pop-up, follow Filthy Rich Pudding on Instagram.

To learn more or to register for the G.U.T.T. Healing Circle, you can visit the Instagram page here.