Nancy Chang prepares to make soup in her legal home kitchen. Photo credit: Anna Mindess
Every week, Nancy Chang pours her nutritious soups into jars that line the kitchen counter of her Oakland home. A light green soup with broccoli, kale and celery, a golden cauliflower soup with lentils and turmeric and beets with coconut milk and ginger create a striking magenta tone. Every Saturday, Chang packs her glasses and delivers them to residents in Berkeley, Oakland, and Richmond to serve customers who are undergoing chemotherapy, facing other health issues, or just want a calming homemade soup delivered to their door.
The goal of running a business that makes nutritious soups had lingered in Chang’s brain for over 10 years. But her fear of the idea of becoming an independent entrepreneur often made her try to forget about the idea. Eventually, earlier this year, Chang overcame her fears and started her own micro home kitchen business (MEHKO), Purpose and Hope.
Chang picks up the products for her soup every Wednesday and then prepares every order on Thursday and Friday for Saturday delivery. Photo credit: Anna Mindess
The Oakland resident was inspired to start this business when her mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Chang saw her mother struggle to maintain her weight during the treatments. At first she tried eating hospital food, but eventually she needed nutrient-rich drinks like “Save” to get enough calories in.
“I felt really helpless,” says Chang. “One day a friend of my mother’s came by with a homemade soup. It gave her a glimmer of hope that food would take care of her own body. ”During her mother’s months of treatment, the two were part of a community of oncology patients and their caregivers in Houston, Texas. Chang, who was in her twenties, was impressed by the generosity, kindness, and unconditional love of the caregivers and patients who shared nutritious food. “That was the first time I felt that food could be an inspiration,” she says.
“After I had my business idea,” says Chang, “the terror tried to make me forget it, but the idea haunted me.” She couldn’t get rid of the feeling that this was the calling of her life. Over the years, Chang took courses in charitable business and entrepreneurship, and developed a business plan at the Renaissance Center. She also studied holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley. In the meantime, she has worked in a number of corporate jobs and has volunteered in grocery initiatives such as Project Open Hand, The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, Meals on Wheels, and in local churches helping prepare meals for the unoccupied.
Nancy Chang delivers soup to a customer in East Bay on Saturdays. Photo credit: Anna Mindess
Chang commends her mentor Ali Jelveh on a three-month self-development program in 2017 for helping her exploration and encouraging her to finally follow her dream. He advised her, “Just go ahead and see if you can serve.” After working with him on a charitable project (unrelated to food), Jelveh Chang asked, “If you could do something, what would you do do? ”The answer has always been a project to make soothing soups. Soon after, Chang linked up with registered nutritionist Tinrin Chew, who has a certification in oncological nutrition. Chew confirmed that soups on broth were most likely to aid the gut health that Chang was looking for, and agreed to review all of her recipes.
Chang seriously pursued the business after the pandemic began. Liba Falafel, where she had worked in the front of the house, fired all the staff and eventually closed the shutters, so Chang reorganized her life to focus on meaning and hope. She funded $ 7,000 in startup costs, built a website, and launched Purpose and Hope in January with a retail client. The shop was open to the public in March and things picked up when they started getting referrals from health professionals.
Although California passed AB 626 in 2018, which allowed MEHKOs to operate from people’s homes, it was up to each county to approve this 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 for a kitchen inspection and passed it with flying colors.
Now she can officially prepare her soups in her Oakland kitchen. The soups consist of organic beef and chicken bone broths that have been simmered for 24 hours (which she buys from another supplier), as well as a vegan mineral broth that she makes herself, with seven vegetables, seaweed, herbs and spices. Chang sources products such as mushrooms and seaweed from local farms and uses reusable containers.
Glasses with soup and hope soup, ready for dispatch. Courtesy: Foodnome
A regular Purpose and Hope customer, Nina Flyer from Oakland, started ordering soups from Chang a few months ago after meeting at a dog park. She was in no health condition at the time, but found the soups “delicious and so filling that they are like dinner”. Recently, after Flyer had shoulder surgery and cooking became difficult, the delivery of her favorite soups (triple mushroom and fennel and maitake and sunchoke) was just what she needed.
John Reykjalin, a Berkeley resident and cancer survivor, noticed her card in his acupuncturist’s office. “I’m blown away by their handmade soups,” he says. “The Cordyceps Burdock Root Miso is unusual, with a taste that lets you know you are eating some nutritious food.”
A video on her website is a bit ambitious as it shows several people helping her make the soups while it’s just Chang at the moment. But as she grows her business, she hopes to hire workers who struggle with life challenges like employment and housing barriers. Another way Chang is giving back to the community is through their Soup Sponsorship Program. Donors can support their efforts to provide free soups to low-income women diagnosed with cancer in partnership with the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic.
Kim Wu, an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine doctor, recommended Chang’s soups to his clients and friends, either after giving birth or after an illness. “For example, one gentleman,” she said, “was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to be on a liquid diet before surgery.”
Feeling under the weather recently, Wu ordered some of Chang’s soups for himself. “In Chinese medicine,” she said, “certain foods like mushrooms are considered adaptogens and have healing properties. Her golden milk powder (with turmeric and spices) is also anti-inflammatory. ”Wu is just as impressed with Chang’s community focus as she is with her delicious soup. “Chang is a wonderful, kind person whose mission is to serve others.”
You can order soups from Purpose and Hope through the website. Orders are prepared every Thursday and Friday and delivered to customers in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and other nearby areas every Saturday. For same week deliveries, orders must be placed before midnight Tuesday.
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