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Angie Needels / Director / 510-325-4785



Berkeley, CA


(Not used in this template) MamaKai offers support for families in preconception, pregnancy, birth, post partum and child development. This includes: education, classes, support groups, online resources, nutrition, health coaching, and more. Donate TODAY and receive SO MUCH support from MamaKai! 

MamaKai's Proposed Apprenticeship and Kitchen Project

Thanks for helping MamaKai build a community kitchen and help serve thousands of nourishing meals in the Bay Area!

What’s the “short story” on MamaKai's Apprenticeship and Kitchen Project? 

With MamaKai's community's help, the MamaKai Project will create a new cooking and nutrition education apprenticeship program reaching 35 at-risk teen moms and serving 10,000 days of postpartum meals to 250 Bay Area families in its first year, furthering MamaKai’s mission to provide preventive health care and community support.

Community Impact... Discuss the problem this proposed project aims to address, including the total expected impact of this project on the community if executed. 

Each year there are 93,000 new babies in the Bay Area, and research reveals the connection between healthy maternity through infancy and overall health in adulthood (“The Barker Theory”). Providing nourishing meals to families for the first 40 days postpartum will positively impact long term health in our community.

California teenage mothers accounted for 38,300 babies in 2011. This population is at greater risk for pregnancy-related issues and poor infant health due to less prenatal care and nutrition, more stress, smoking, and drug use. The high school completion rate is lower for teen moms making building a career more difficult. MamaKai’s apprenticeship program will provide professional training and skills, while improving lifestyles as the participants learn to maintain a healthy pantry and provide meals for their families.

The MamaKai Project Kitchen addresses both of these important issues. During the first year, MamaKai will apprentice 35 teen moms and provide 10,000 meals to 250 families.  In subsequent years, the direct impact will grow as the project ramps up to full capacity. Although difficult to quantify, another important aspect is the ripple effect as knowledge transfers from program participants to benefit their larger communities in health, economics and productivity.

What are 1-3 Key Indicators to track the progress toward the impact described above?  How will these indicators be measured? 

1.  Improved health outcomes and nutritional knowledge for the families and infants receiving meals through our program.  

As measured through basic health assessment and vital signs/measurements from the baby and mother (height, weight, length, head and chest circumference, blood pressure, etc.) compared to community norms, and through written interviews/surveys. Data will be collected at:

  • Initial Application – at 30-36 weeks pregnancy

  • Program Completion – at 40 days postpartum

  • Post Completion – at 1 year birthday of child

2.  Healthier lifestyles for the apprentices and their children.  

As measured through basic health assessment and vital signs/measurements from the baby and mother (height, weight, length, head and chest circumference, blood pressure, etc.) compared to community norms, and through written interviews/surveys. Data will be collected at:

  • Initial Application – Goals assessment

  • Program Completion – Goals achievement assessment

  • Post Completion – at 1 year anniversary of program completion

3. Job skills and employment stability gained by the apprentices.  

As measured by a pre- and post-program skills assessment and a final project/presentation, plus a follow up interview/survey at the 1 year anniversary of program completion.

Program participants will agree to provide this feedback as a condition of acceptance.

What makes this project innovative?  

Angie is an innovator within her area of expertise, disease prevention through nutrition education. An iterative development process characterizes her ten-year career, as she continually experiments with new models, responding to the needs she perceives and experiences in the Bay Area community.  

The MamaKai Project Kitchen takes long-standing cultural traditions and applies them to poignant real-world issues seen today, specifically the continual rise of disease, health care costs and the need for government assistance programs like welfare, food stamps, WIC, disability, Medicare and Medicaid. By addressing multi-layered social and health problems from a preventive approach, the community can heal these issues at their core, rather than patching up the symptoms.

The true innovation “baked into” the MamaKai Project Kitchen is maximum community impact by addressing multiple issues, simultaneously. Pregnancy and birth is a time of great care and change for families, and an optimal time to empower both the apprentices and recipients to take charge of their health and create life-long change for the better.  Beyond providing a short-term service, the transfer of knowledge and skills will improve the lifestyle of the community at large.

What other organizations are tackling this issue and what approaches have been tried in the past? 

MamaKai’s proposed project operates in the intersection of two distinct areas of considerable focus for non-profit initiatives. The first is health and nutrition during pregnancy and infancy. Many existing programs provide information and services (Planned Parenthood, First Five Years Fund, various hospital programs). Others (WIC, Feed the Children) provide meals and food supplies. The medical community recognizes this as a point of high potential impact, and we can draw from a large existing body of research to support MamaKai’s work. For example, research by the Barker Foundation links fetal development to chronic disease in adulthood.  

Likewise, numerous agencies bridge the gap between high school and career for at-risk youth (San Francisco Conservation Corps, MatchBridge, New Door Ventures). Several initiatives of the Family Service Agency of San Francisco provide case management and annual stipends for at-risk and teen parents. The Ceres Community Project in Sebastopol is a great model of a successful and growing Bay Area organization. They run a volunteer/intern kitchen providing nearly 40,000 free meals to 310 terminally ill clients on an annual budget of $370,000.

The MamaKai Project Kitchen synthesizes many of these concepts into a new initiative with maximum community impact.

Scalability... How could this project go about bringing this to other communities in the Bay Area and beyond in a sustainable way? 

Over the years Angie has thought a lot about creating an easily scalable model. 95% of MamaKai’s current education programs are available via the web and phone conferencing, making them accessible to most Bay Area residents.

The proposed Kitchen project scales easily to new locations by using existing commercial kitchen infrastructure. Commercial kitchens exist all over the Bay Area in restaurants, schools, and churches, and many are underutilized. MamaKai would first target kitchens willing to allow access during off-hours on a donation or in-kind basis, and in areas with the highest populations of at-risk families (for both apprenticeship and service-recipient applicants).

MamaKai would deepen connection with Bay Area social work programs and expand in places with the most impact potential and new applicant interest.

In this way, ramping up a budget over the next 3-5 years allows MamaKai to easily offer larger class sizes, more frequently and at more locations.

How would MamaKai utilize a $500,000 grant?

Receiving a $500,000 grant will allow MamaKai to immediately implement a project that has been a long-term goal, has undergone significant planning over several years, and is in alignment with the existing mission of providing nourishment and support for growing families.  

The centerpiece of the project is to build a commercial kitchen to house the apprentice program and produce the meals. One-time costs of $175,000 include permitting, leasing, startup inventory and equipment. Ongoing non-staff kitchen costs include rent, insurance and maintenance of $60,000 annually.  

During Year 1, the program will ramp up gradually before reaching full capacity. MamaKai’s staffing model is scalable beginning with part-time employees, hiring full time when appropriate. The project will require a kitchen manager, instructor/curriculum director and 1-2 kitchen assistants (potentially volunteer positions) in addition to the program director (Angie). Monthly payroll costs begin at $2,000 and ramp up to $10,000 at full capacity. This award will allow 35 at-risk teen mom apprentices to provide 10,000 days of meals to 250 families postpartum during the first year.  

Marketing the program and acquiring applicants will be sped by tapping MamaKai’s existing participant base. The project will kick off with a small pilot of the apprenticeship program. This can be accomplished simultaneous to the kitchen build, using leased commercial space during the interim.  

Upon request, MamaKai can supply further detail to any interested donor including a budget, financial projections for the buildout and kitchen operation, curriculum development to date, and a list of hirable candidates.

How would MamaKai utilize a $250,000 grant?

At the $250,000 grant funding level, all components of The MamaKai Project Kitchen project as proposed remain the same, except that the project will be executed with a leased kitchen facility rather than building out a privately owned certified commercial kitchen.

How would MamaKai utilize a $100,000 grant? 

Receiving a $100,000 grant would allow MamaKai to continue laying the groundwork for the apprenticeship program by expanding current programming, namely free educational offerings.

This grant amount would give MamaKai a marketing budget, outside of the generous word-of-mouth marketing that the salesforce of allied practitioners already extends. This would allow MamaKai to spread the word and build a dramatic increase in participation in the tele-conferenced and online classes.

MamaKai’s current educational offerings are formatted using a variety of technological services, allowing for these existing programs to be immediately scaled. Additional participation will broaden the reach of the organization and further build a strong ongoing donor/support base. MamaKai would be able to offer a higher quality and more extensive archive of previous classes, additional online resources, a more thorough and informative newsletter, and more in person events and classes.  

What are 2-3 of the most significant risks for this project?

The project is extensively researched and costed, and is ready to quickly move into implementation. Over the years MamaKai has addressed many potential risks that could impact the success of the project. In the past year, MamaKai moved from a for-profit to a non-profit model, removing significant limitations on who could be served, accepting volunteer help, and access to grants and donations as a better source of funding.

A significant risk that receiving a $500,000 grant will help MamaKai overcome is building a private commercial kitchen space, over leasing. Ownership of MamaKai’s own kitchen allows for sustainable growth and control over the facilities, equipment, and hours of operation. MamaKai has never had access to the type of capital required to build out a space and has run into considerable issues in the past; spaces closing or being too full for growth potential, equipment malfunction, or contaminated products.

Who's on the Core Project Team?

The MamaKai Project is the brainchild of Angie Needels, a Therapeutic Chef and Nutrition Educator certified through Bauman College in Berkeley. While her education is steeped in healing the body from disease, her entrepreneurial passions lie in preventive health care. Angie saw birth and infant development as the single most impactful way of creating deep and long lasting change. Angie’s own sister gave birth at the age of 17, without any prenatal care or nutritional support.

Since MamaKai’s founding, the results continue to be the driving force in growth and perseverance. Angie has spent years building a vast network of resources and a salesforce within cooking, health, nutrition, medicine, pregnancy, birth and business communities around the Bay Area. MamaKai is poised to bring additional partners into the program from this network when awarded grant backing.

What are MamaKai's 3 most significant partner organizations? 

Over the years MamaKai has created rooted connections with an extensive network of practitioners also providing support to growing Bay Area families. These include but aren’t limited to: OB/GYNs, Pediatricians, midwives, doulas, naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, yoga instructors and studios, birth centers, and birth resource centers and shops.

Organizations like Rachel Yellin, BirthWays, GetzWell Pediatrics, and The Bay Area Homebirth Collective have supported MamaKai significantly and come together to create a driving salesforce in sharing MamaKai’s programs and offerings in their communities. They have donated time and space in their practices to host free educational classes and give generous feedback so MamaKai can continue fine-tuning her efforts effectively and efficiently.

MamaKai looks to continue nurturing these partnerships, as well as expand to larger organizations that will have a wider, yet targeted reach in the Bay Area.

How do volunteers contribute to MamaKai today?  Is there a way for volunteers to contribute to this project?  

MamaKai draws from it’s participant base, allowing them to grow a vibrant community. Ample opportunity exists as arguably everyone on the planet could benefit from nutrition education and community support.

Currently, volunteers can assist with anything from leading educational conference calls, to developing content for blog posts and articles for the wellness resources library, to public policy and health research, to assisting with administrative tasks required to run the organization. MamaKai also has a very active donor base and accepts financial, material and in-kind donations.

A major thrust of the proposed Kitchen project is to significantly expand MamaKai’s services, with in-person offerings, in addition to existing programming conducted mostly via web and tele-conference.  Being able to fund the apprenticeship program would open up additional volunteer positions at MamaKai, including kitchen assistants and instructors, meal packaging and delivery, and mentorship to the interns.  

What else? 

Green Branch Library, an Oakland based 501©3 organization, fiscally sponsored The MamaKai Project in 2013 to help expand MamaKai’s reach and capabilities in its philanthropic dreams and endeavors. The founders of each organization, Shari Leskowitz of Green Branch and Angie Needels of MamaKai, have known and backed each others work for years in passionately supporting free education and youth empowerment in the Bay Area community.

Green Branch has known MamaKai to be operating as a for-profit organization since 2008 and saw the limits that the for-profit model had placed on the projects MamaKai was trying to create. Green Branch also saw the great potential and community impact that MamaKai’s ideas could generate and wanted to help actualize those through this legal partnership in fiscal sponsorship, thus establishing The MamaKai Project within Green Branch’s structure.

With the non-profit structure in place, MamaKai can take her breadth of knowledge and expertise and apply them more broadly, aiding a larger body of Bay Area residents. MamaKai approaches business acumen from a lean user experience mindset, using low-risk methods and technology to assess effectiveness and allowing a sustainable unfolding of natural business growth built on sound evidence, true market response and profound results.