In memory of:
A visionary leader who devoted her life, passion, and creativity to catalyzing groundbreaking programs, launching community-based businesses, and forging wide-reaching partnerships that fostered food security and equitable economic development.
Ciara Segura (she/her)
Ciara’s previous experience within California’s food system spans multiple industries, including early-stage food startups, organic produce distribution, and participatory social science research. She brings with her a strong capacity to think across disciplinary borders and a dedication to thoughtful, place-based advocacy that is driven by the needs and perspectives of local residents. Food is her greatest pleasure and what inspires many of her political commitments.
Ciara joined Mandela Partners in 2018 to address competing for food access and economic challenges - ensuring fair pricing for farmers who grow sustainably while simultaneously keeping the cost of healthy food affordable in underserved communities. Since then, she has led the strategic growth of the organization’s food access initiatives and farmer network and now oversees its business and workforce development programming. In her role as co-executive director, she will continue to deepen Mandela Partners’ cross-sector partnerships and programs and cultivate pathways for asset and wealth building in limited-resource communities of color.
Ciara grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and has lived in the Bay Area for over 15 years. She holds a B.A. in Feminist Studies from Stanford University and an M.A. in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin.
Maureen Silva (she/her)
Born in the East Bay and raised in the Central Valley region of California, Maureen has seen firsthand the impact of urban development on local farming communities. She is passionate about uplifting sustainable food systems as a way to strengthen local economies, and also to help restore our planet. Since joining Mandela Partners, Maureen has played an integral role in building the organization's fund development program from the ground up. Maureen has worked closely with the Board of Directors to diversify Mandela's funding revenue streams, and deepen relationships with philanthropic institutions and individual donors to support a $3.44MM organizational budget. She has led the organization through a multi-year fund development plan, created streamlined donor management and communications platform, and built systems for effectively evaluating and reporting annual impact data. In her role as co-executive director, Maureen supports strategic planning and program development--including assessment of current and future initiatives, fostering innovation and areas of growth, and building new partnership opportunities on a local and national scale.
Over the past decade, Maureen has been part of several nonprofits--serving communities nationally as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area-- to support healthier, equitable food environments. Maureen acquired her Master's Degree in Public Health from San Jose State University in 2014 and has traveled extensively across the country providing consultation with coalitions, nonprofits, and public health departments to develop multi-sector strategies that advance healthy places nationwide.
Christine Kuo (she/her)
Finance & Administration Director
Christine has more than 20 years of experience in finance across multiple industries, including healthcare, power and gas, entertainment, software, and retail. Before joining Mandela in 2014, she was a Finance Manager for a biotechnology firm in the Bay Area, working directly with divisional account teams, driving financial management cycles, and facilitating capital planning budgets. In search of an opportunity to work in a community-based field, Christine left the corporate sector to pursue a position with Mandela Partners. At Mandela, Christine has been able to build on her passion for healthy food and positively contribute to the Oakland community. As the Director of Finance & Operations at Mandela, Ms. Kuo manages a $2.7MM budget, provides oversight for contract and funds compliance, and oversees operations for the organization. Additionally, Christine is the organization’s technical assistance lead for financial management advising and support provided to Mandela incubated businesses. Christine has a BS Degree in Managerial Economics from UC Davis.
Ana Sloan-Stephens (she/her)
Business Development Director
Born and raised in Richmond, California, Ana’s parents modeled that food is a symbol of love. Everywhere they went – to a soccer game, a school event, or even just a playdate – they brought something to share.
This passion for building community through food has flowed seamlessly into her career. With an eclectic educational background in food growth and production, leadership development, and over 10 years of restaurant industry experience, Ana offers an advantageous blend of business insight and a “community-based” savvy that enables success in the unique dynamic world of food businesses. She has helped launch local restaurants of all sizes, scaled and pivoted business plans effectively through turmoil, retained over 80% of employees during growth periods, and maintained invaluable relationships with influential community members. As the Business Development Director, Ana is leading the strategic direction and operations of Ashland Market & Café—community food hall and business incubator in unincorporated Alameda County—with Mandela’s Business Development Team, oversees individual advising and evaluation with community entrepreneurs and provides oversight and support to Mandela's incubated businesses.
In her free time, Ana is an avid reader, adores cooking with and for her family, and loves to hike the Bay Area and beyond with her partner and Pitbull, Talulah.
Erick Ismael Sanchez de Leon (he/him)
Food Hub Operations Manager
Erick Ismael Sanchez de Leon, whom friends call "E", loves California and has a special place in his heart for the Bay Area. His academic interests revolve around our built, natural, and imagined environments. He also enjoys learning about places and spaces off the beaten path. Erick works alongside Joseph at Mandela Foods Distribution assisting with warehouse management, produce sourcing, and delivery. Erick loves meeting new farmers, exploring West Oakland, and providing community residents with healthy, locally grown produce.
Sean Brekke-Miesner (he/him)
Culinary Education Manager
A third-generation East Oaklander, Sean's grandparents owned a restaurant for 22 years, which had a big influence on his interest in food. Working in the restaurant industry for the last 10 years, Sean has worked every job in the kitchen from dishwasher to Sous Chef. Drawing on a background in everything from menu development to running an internship program at a local restaurant, Sean became the Food Retail Manager at Mandela Partners.
Sean manages the day-to-day operations at Oak Harvest Kitchen, formerly Core Kitchen – a produce-center restaurant and second-chance employment training program – in addition to providing facilities management and support for E14th Eatery + Kitchen, a community food hall, and community space. His belief in equity, job training for residents with employment barriers, and investing in underserved communities are the core values that attracted him to working at Mandela Partners and he looks forward to continuing to grow with the organization. Outside of work, Sean enjoys watching the A's and the Warriors, as well as trying new restaurants in Oakland.
Nina Arrocena (she/her)
Food Access Program Manager
Nina Arrocena is a core contributor to the Healthy Retail Team and leads Mandela's Community Produce Stand Program. Raised in the Salinas Valley, agriculture has been a large part of her life, and she moved to Oakland with hopes of making a positive contribution to her new community. She is thrilled to be part of the meaningful work of providing access to fresh, healthy food to community members throughout the city. From families at elementary schools to the regulars at the Senior Center, Nina's favorite part of her job is the daily interaction with a wide variety of customers.
Amani Ali (she/her)
Healthy Grocery Initiative Manager
Amani has been instrumental in restructuring the Healthy Grocery Initiative (HGI) from a produce delivery service to one that better serves the unique business needs of local retailers and engages in local advocacy efforts on their behalf. Amani also oversees the Fresh Creds discount program and neighborhood engagement strategies at HGI stores.
Amani is a justice-driven leader who is vocal about questioning the status quo. She is an Oakland native who returned from Southern California in 2011 to pursue a Master of Social Work degree from CSU East Bay. There she studied community mental health and her understanding of systemic inequities were deepened, shaping a new worldview. In her free time, Amani enjoys competing in pool (billiards) tournaments and cooking.
Mimi Lim (she/her)
Mimi moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2007 and worked in accounting for various industries, such as telecommunications, healthcare, retail, startups, architecture, and nonprofit. After working in various industries, she was most interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. Influenced by her upbringing, she understood how important access to equitable food and obtainable employment was. So she decided to pursue a position with Mandela Partners, which best aligns with her values and passion for social justice.
Mimi manages the day-to-day administrative functions for Mandela Partners and two incubated businesses, Oak Harvest Kitchen and Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, which are under the organization’s fiscal management. Also, she oversees the organization’s financial data and compliance as well as performs daily accounting tasks by recording, organizing, and managing financial data and transactions.
In her free time, Mimi enjoys exploring the Bay Area, volunteering, reading about permaculture and hydroculture, and learning about urban farming. For fun, she likes to experiment in her hydroponics and aquaponics garden. Also, she loves working with tools to build things, such as greenhouses, grow beds, and storage shelves.
Sabine Dabady (they/them)
Entrepreneurship Development Manager
Raised in Brooklyn, New York to Haitian Immigrants, Sabine is grateful for the path that brought them to California and now, Mandela Partners. Following several years of securing tour dates for performing arts companies, nursing an injury after a bike accident was one of the catalyzing events that motivated them to pursue work connected to health, nutrition, and food systems. Deeper reflections and questions about the built environment of their Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush sparked the necessity to ask complex questions over simple solutions. In 2015, they moved to the Bay Area to complete a graduate degree in Public Health at UC Berkeley.
In their role as Entrepreneur Development Manager, Sabine collaborates with East Bay entrepreneurs in service to promoting their businesses and contributing to positive shifts in community wealth and health. Leading with curiosity, they rely on the tools that shaped their rich and diverse background working in arts administration, nutrition education, urban agriculture, and teaching. In their free time, Sabine swims regularly to keep them sane and hopes to complete a (non-competitive) swim from Alcatraz.
Samiha Hamdi (she/they)
Farm Partnerships Manager
Samiha grew up mostly in the midwest as a first-generation Pakistani immigrant. She began her career in ecological restoration and conservation biology, and relocated to the Bay Area/mostly Miwok and Huchin lands in 2014. Since then, she has worked in various roles within the field of agroecology, land sovereignty, farmer advocacy and support, food justice, and labor justice throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Her passion for agroecology, farmer and food justice, and community organizing was strengthened during her time in Peace Corps Panama, where she served as a Community Agro-Environmental Conservation Agent. In 2022, Samiha graduated with a Masters in International Agricultural and Rural Development and Indigenous Studies from Cornell University.
Outside of her work with Mandela, Samiha spends her time advocating for indigenous land sovereignty, ecological justice, and solidarity with the multitude of oppressed beings. She carries her built experiences with her in every role she occupies, and works towards justice, equity, and healing both in her work at Mandela Partners and outside of it. You can also find her dancing, drumming, gardening, meditating, swimming in the ocean, backpacking, journaling, and laughing! Above all, Samiha is a decolonial self-love advocate, and is on a continuous path of self-discovery and learning. She is grateful to be here!
Aliyah Bey (she/her)
Wellness Education Coordinator
Aliyah is from Southern California and lives in San Francisco. She loves eating good food and balancing healthy food choices. In 2020, Aliyah became an I.S.S.A. Certified Nutritionist and Personal Trainer. She has a passion for understanding how the body functions and learning how food can offset diseases to heal us. As the Wellness Coordinator, Aliyah assists communities and individuals in adopting healthy habits and developing a healthy relationship with food; she teaches people about nutrition, well-being, and self-care.
Jeremy Dutra (he/him)
Marketing & Outreach Coordinator
Born and raised in unincorporated Alameda County, Jeremy received his Bachelor's of Arts in Environmental Studies & Sustainable Resource Management from California State University, East Bay. While in college, he developed a deep appreciation for how our food choices affect the health of our physical environment, impact local economies, and influence community wellness. And so, for the past 6+ years, Jeremy has thoughtfully engaged in both food-based nonprofit and for-profit work to develop a deeper understanding of how to build a more sustainable food system in the Bay Area.
At Mandela Partners, he oversees their small business marketing programming for unincorporated Alameda County entrepreneurs, and approaches managing the external communication processes for their Food Business Pathway Program, E14th Eatery + Kitchen incubator space, and community outreach, with curiosity, creativity, and lens of food equity and social inclusivity.
Outside of Mandela, Jeremy currently serves as a Director on the Castro Valley/Eden Area Chamber of Commerce board, to support in guiding the chamber's digital outreach processes and economic development initiatives.
Yuro Chavez (he/him)
Produce Delivery Associate
Yuro is a San Francisco-raised Guatemalan-American who has been living in the East Bay for over a decade. He believes strongly in supporting local small farmers and providing the community with healthy fruits and vegetables. He has been with Mandela Partners since 2007, and as part of the Mandela Produce Distribution team, he has gained valuable business skills. Yuro looks forward to continuing to grow his skills as well as the business.
Rya O'Rourke (she/they)
Communications & Outreach Associate
Rya is a Bay Area native born in Redwood City, CA, and raised in Fremont, CA. They received a Bachelor of Science in Communication Design from California State University, Monterey Bay. She loves working with their community by participating in projects that enable healing, activism, and aspirations. She is passionate about building environments everyone can participate and people from all backgrounds are valued, respected, and supported.
Outside of Mandela Partners, they are the Multidimensional Design Director for Soulstice Bay Area, a grassroots collective focused on creating accessible spaces and affordable creative expression for Queer Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian Bay Area artists. She hopes to be a leader in her community who curates accessible spaces for healing and liberation through art. Rya enjoys anime, manga, gaming, and her cat, Tito.
Natasha Nazer (she/her)
Workforce Development Associate
Natasha has spent the past five years splitting her time between managing New Space Studio, the disabled arts program she co-founded, and helping to launch and manage independent Oakland restaurants. Her distinct experiences have cultivated a passion for creating effective and impactful systems for a more equitable world. Originally from Los Angeles, the Bay Area is her home and she has been here for over a decade.
She grew up cooking and connecting to her multi-cultural background through food, which evolved over time into an appreciation for our food systems and their pervasive inequity. Natasha has seen firsthand the effect nourishment has on wellbeing and the capacity for personal development. As a Workforce Development Associate for the Re-Generate Opportunity Program at Mandela Partners, Natasha integrates the skills she acquired in restaurant management with her dedication to social justice work.
Natasha received a BA in Psychology from UC Davis and lives in East Oakland with her dog, her cat, and her partner. In her spare time, she loves to cook, surf, and appreciate all the natural beauty the Bay Area has to offer.
Stephanie Flores (she/her)
Delivery and Operations Associate
Stephanie is Bay Area born and raised, to Mexican immigrants who both grew up in ranchos. After volunteering at Veggielution Community farm back in college, she gained an interest and passion for food access, food justice, and all things related to farmers' markets and community work.
During her free time, you can find her sitting at a coffee shop either journaling or writing letters to her friends.