Oakland Soup Company Seeks to Nourish and Comfort


Nancy Chang is preparing to make soup in the kitchen of her licensed home. Credit: Anna Mindess

Each week, Nancy Chang pours her nutrient-dense soups into glass jars that line the kitchen counter of her Oakland home. Bright green soup is packed with broccoli, kale and celery, golden cauliflower soup has lentils and turmeric, and beets mixed with coconut milk and ginger create a striking magenta hue. Every Saturday, Chang packs his jars and delivers them to residents of Berkeley, Oakland, and Richmond, on a mission to serve customers who are undergoing chemotherapy, facing other health concerns, or just want a heartwarming homemade soup delivered to their house. door.

The goal of running a nutritious soup company had been on the back burner in Chang’s mind for over 10 years. But her apprehension about becoming an independent entrepreneur has led her to try to forget the idea on several occasions. Finally, earlier this year, Chang overcame his fears and started his own home cooking business (MEHKO), Purpose and Hope.

Chang picks up his soup products every Wednesday, then prepares each order on Thursday and Friday for delivery on Saturday. Credit: Anna Mindess

The Oakland resident was inspired to start this business when her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Chang saw how her mother struggled to maintain her weight during treatments. First, she tried eating hospital food, but eventually needed nutritional drinks like Ensure to get enough calories.

“I felt really helpless,” Chang said. “One day, a friend of my mother’s came with some homemade soup. It gave her a spark of hope that she could take care of her own body through food. During her mother’s months of treatment, they were both part of a community of oncology patients and their caregivers in Houston, Texas. Chang, who was in his 20s, was struck by the generosity, kindness and unconditional love of caregivers and patients sharing nutritious food with each other. “It was the first time that I felt that food could be an inspiration,” she says.

“After I had my business idea,” Chang says, “the terror tried to make me forget, but the idea continued to follow me. She couldn’t shake the feeling that doing this was her life calling. Over the years, Chang has taken courses in nonprofit business and entrepreneurship and developed a business plan at the Renaissance Center. She also studied holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley. During this time, she held a series of corporate jobs and volunteered in food-related initiatives, such as Project Open Hand, The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, Meals on Wheels, and at local churches where she served. helped prepare meals for homeless people.

Nancy Chang makes a Saturday soup delivery to a customer in East Bay. Credit: Anna Mindess

Chang thanks her mentor on a three-month personal development program in 2017, Ali Jelveh, for supporting her exploration and encouraging her to finally achieve her dream. He advised her, “Start simple and see if you can serve. After working with him on a community service project (which was unrelated to food), Jelveh asked Chang, “If you could do something, what would you do? The answer has always been a plan to make comforting soups. Soon after, Chang contacted dietitian Tinrin Chew, who holds a certification in nutrition oncology. Chew has confirmed that broth-based soups are the most likely to provide the gut health support Chang is looking for and has agreed to review all of his recipes.

Chang took the business seriously after the pandemic began. Liba Falafel, where she had worked at the front of the house, laid off all of her employees and eventually closed her doors, so Chang restructured her life to focus on purpose and hope. She funded $ 7,000 in start-up costs, created a website and launched Purpose and Hope with a private client in January. In March, the business was open to the public and things improved when it began receiving referrals from medical professionals.

Meanwhile, even though California passed AB 626 in 2018, which allowed MEHKOs to operate from people’s homes, it was up to each county to approve it for its own residents. It wasn’t until July that Alameda County finally passed the law. Chang was one of the first to sign up to have her kitchen inspected and did it with flying colors.

Now she can officially cook her soups in her Oakland kitchen. The soups include organic beef and chicken bone broths that have simmered for 24 hours (which she purchases from another vendor) as well as a vegan mineral broth that she makes herself, with seven vegetables. , seaweed, herbs and spices. Chang’s springs produce, like mushrooms and algae, from local farms and use reusable containers.

Jars of soup of purpose and hope, ready for delivery. Courtesy: Foodnome

A frequent Purpose and Hope customer, Nina Flyer of Oakland, started ordering soups from Chang a few months ago after they met at a dog park. She had no health problem at the time, but found the soups “delicious and so filling they look like dinner.” Recently, after Flyer had shoulder surgery and cooking got tough, having her favorite soups delivered (triple mushroom and fennel, and maitake and Jerusalem artichoke) was just what she needed.

John Reykjalin, a Berkeley resident and cancer survivor, noticed his card in his acupuncturist’s office. “I am blown away by his homemade soups,” he said. “Cordyceps Burdock Root Miso is unusual, with a taste that lets you know you are eating something rich in nutrients.”

A video on his website is somewhat ambitious, as it shows several people helping him prepare the soups, when at the moment it’s just Chang. But as she grows her business, she hopes to hire workers who face life challenges such as barriers to employment and housing. Another way for Chang to give back to the community is through his soup sponsorship program. Donors can support her efforts to provide free soups to low-income women who have been diagnosed with cancer, in partnership with the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic.

Kim Wu, an acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, has recommended Chang’s soups to her clients and friends, whether after childbirth or recovering. “A man, for example,” she said, “was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to be on a liquid diet before surgery.”

Recently, Wu was feeling bad and ordered Chang’s soups for herself. “In Chinese medicine,” she says, “certain foods, such as mushrooms, are considered adaptogens and have healing properties. Its golden powdered milk (with turmeric and spices) is also anti-inflammatory. Wu is just as impressed with Chang’s community orientation as he is with his delicious soup. “Chang is a wonderful and kind human whose mission is to serve others.”

You can order Purpose and Hope soups on their website. Orders are prepared every Thursday and Friday and are delivered to customers in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and other surrounding areas every Saturday. For delivery the same week, orders must be placed before Tuesday midnight.

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