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Where's WANDA? Creating a new generation of children as healthy eaters, readers and leaders.

Where's WANDA? empowers caregivers with a culturally relevant early child nutrition edutainment platform and multimedia training tool kits.

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Written by

Name or Organization

Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture (WANDA)


WANDA is registered and based in Washington, DC where implementation would occur.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD


  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

What if we could inspire a generation of girls to see themselves as food sheroes in our communities? WANDA was born out of love and an urgency by inspiring, engaging and informing women and girls to honor our ancestors by embracing our cultural food ways to heal ourselves and lead our communities. WANDA seeks to educate, advocate and innovate for women and girls in the areas of agriculture, nutrition and dietetics by cross-cutting sectors of education, community development and health care. Big WANDAs (women) inspire, influence and invest in Little WANDAs (girls) with skills and support.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

Where's WANDA? aims to provide a platform and multimedia tool kits to address a lack of cultural relevant child nutrition education in Washington, DC. The "Where's WANDA?" character Little WANDA is the role model for children to become wellness champions for their community and carry the torch as local food changemakers. After completing the WANDA Workshops on "train the trainer" model, caregivers are equipped to become Big WANDAs to support and inspire preschoolers to become healthy eaters, readers and leaders like Little WANDA who is 5 years old. Big WANDAs can also access an tech-enabled platform to provide group support, a community of best practices and collaboration. The WANDA's World multimedia tool kits include video-on-demand Where's WANDA? animated content, lesson plans, certificates, scorecards, and edutainment games. Clubs compete in Fall/Spring semester to adhere to the USDA-mandated wellness policy goals. After completing the program, winning teams receive invitation to attend Little WANDA Summer Garden Day Party featuring Little WANDA the puppet to encourage healthy, happy birthdays with a garden lessons/tour, and celebrate the nutritional milestone of turning 5 years old. Caregivers compete in the mommy and me cooking competition to win prizes and create memorable meal moments and strengthening family bonds.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

The first 1000 days of child's life represents the window of opportunity for modeling healthy eating behaviors, improve cognitive development and create a path to success. Studies show our children’s generation is supposed to die before us due to a high supply of double burden of nutrition from malnutrition to obesity. We still lack creative, gender- and culturally-relevant child nutrition education and diverse representation in the nutrition field such as role models and mentors.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

We are planting the seed for the "soul sisterhood of the soil" to take root and bear fruit for the community to thrive through education, advocacy and innovation. EDUCATE: Provide skills-based training and continuing education in early child nutrition education from farm to fork: * WANDA Ambassadors program (speaker's bureau) composed of women in communities, classroom, clinics and child care centers serving as early child nutrition advocates and trainers. * WANDA's World "train the trainer" multimedia tool kits reach and teach designed for caregivers and educators teaching children from 3 - 5 years old. * Little WANDA's Garden Party + Mommy & Me healthy cooking competition promoting healthy birthday traditions and family bonding through food. ADVOCATE: Build a grassroots advocacy initiative as a key part of mobilizing women and girls to lead in creating healthy communities. * #IamWANDA brings awareness on unsung food sheroes who are creating the change in their communities * #ILoveWANDA focuses on men to become the gate openers of opportunity for women and girls INNOVATE: Leverage technology to build a pan-African women’s network and promote best practices in culturally-relevant early child nutrition education * Where’s WANDA? girl empowerment model focuses on educate, advocate, innovate and celebrate the provides an online supportive community using interactive mobile apps and an creative narrative addressing food as medicine, highlighting female farmers and food entrepreneurs, and travelling across the African Diaspora * Where's WANDA? puppet, bilingual book series and cartoon to promote early child nutrition literacy. * Where's WANDA? multimedia platform for desktop and mobile app with games, quizzes, activities for educators, caregivers and children "Where's WANDA?" program creates empowering girl-themed messages that they can identify with, have ownership plus positive mentorship about their heritage, healing wisdom, history and identity through food. Food is a powerful tool to express identity, value and build a culture of healing that lies within the community. In the curriculum, Little WANDAs discover a world of food sheroes from Africa the Diaspora such as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, First Lady Michelle Obama, Mikaila Ulmer, Food historian Dr. Jessica Harris and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Dr. Evelyn Crayton. The heart of the "Where's WANDA?" program beats the ancestral wisdom of Mama Africa meets the spiritual nature of Mother Earth. For the plants, trees and rivers share their powerful messages coupling with words of wisdom from food sheroes like Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Michelle Obama in America. During the program, Big and Little WANDAs pledge to uphold these WANDA principles gained from their WANDA's World experience: a call to food sheroes on a purpose-filled journey: W: wisdom of her ancestors guides her journey A: authenticity is the path she walks and talks N: nourishes her mind, body and spirit with reaffirming self-love D: determined to dig deep and become rooted to remain still in spirit A: arise from tribulations spreading her wings and bear fruit for her community Along the journey she not only discovers self, but discovers the food friends that help her on the journey to the heal the community. The foods give her wisdom and nourishment. Through the Big WANDA-Little WANDA bonding, personal childhood food issues may rise. Engaging, entertaining and educating guide the lesson plans and activities with key learning themes for the Little WANDAs to grow, challenge and become food sheroes in their community: * sense of self: adapting and trust the process and Big WANDA * responsibility of self and others: being independent * prosocial behavior: thinking to resolve conflict * problem solving: role-play, circle time * logical: group and compare foods around the Diaspora * symbol: Where's WANDA? puppet theatre * listening and speaking: food memoirs and journalling * reading/writing: books and blogs, learning African languages We are smashing through silos to find the intersectionality to transform how we find the value of and lend our voices of women and girls through the prism of food. Providing a safe sister space, we incorporate social and emotional learning to address traumatic stress associated with food and farming issues and include behavioral health specialists.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Women and children under 5 years old in urban and rural areas, particularly of African descent and those involved in Head Start, TANF, SNAP, WIC programs which would benefit from the "Where's WANDA?" program due to gender-empowerment, cultural relevancy, community-building support, multi-generational approach. "I wish to be the change I wish the see in my community," that motto propelled me. I am a resident, mother and reflect the community that I wish to serve. I have planted the seeds as an engaged parent in the local school system, build relations with human service providers, health clinics and engaged with my local policymakers. I am quite familiar and experienced as an advisory board, recipient and advocate for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program along with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) along with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Also I worked on women's policy in DC and at the Boston Black Women's Health Institute. As a girl I didn't embrace my heritage, womanhood and let alone know nutrition. WANDA is a testament of my healing journey and solidifying my purpose to inform and inspire other women and girls that 'all we need is already within' us. I was the only African American and a first-generation college student in my university nutrition program and now as a mom with a daughter. By embracing their femininity and heritage, we envision them finding their purpose with the support of other women and girls.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Together, caregivers and kids can create a culture of children's wellbeing with a multi-tiered impact for better health = better learners. Youth with healthier eating patterns and enough physical activity tend to have better grades, remember what was taught in class, behave better in class and miss less school time. Our unique value is that we are empowering girls to embrace their heritage, history, health and identity through food. Taking a 'learn by doing' approach, We are silo smashing 4 worlds: women and girl empowerment, African heritage (cultural competency), health, nutrition and agricultural education, and career exploration. The core of WANDA is redefining the culture of wellbeing that embraces healing from our ancestral trauma, honoring our divine femininity and leading the change we need to see in ourselves and community. Big and Little WANDA's potential ascend beyond their current plight. When we empower women and girls, we nourish the world. Therefore we envision a lifetime value chain of Big WANDAs and Little WANDAs. In building momentum as we climb, we are on a mission to build a movement to transform a new generation of women and girls to build healthier lives and communities through food, agriculture, and nutrition. At WANDA we are working to create a world for women and girls to go to new heights, build a sisterhood of the soil and soul, and dare to value their voices.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

In keeping with United Nations (UN) Decade of Action on Nutrition, UN Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 4 and 5 and the World Bank's Invest in Nutrition initiative especially low-income children, "Where's WANDA?" will optimize early child literacy by integrating cultural foodways and nutrition education into existing lessons on math, reading, writing and science/tech and the arts. With the help of Big WANDAs and the Little WANDA character reflecting the community, the Where's WANDA? program makes it a relatable and scalable grassroots impact to inspire youth, especially first-generation college bound, to have a sense of belonging, purpose and identity through the community-based WANDA Clubs to build a community of like-minded youth, hope for their future, and set goals for a career in the field of nutrition, dietetics and agriculture which needs to build a more diverse, inclusive workforce especially in decision making positions. WANDA cross cuts social-economic classes, sectors, generations and geographies to ensure a new crop of women and girls lead from farm to fork. We recognize that women and girls hold the key to bring the healing and reconciliation through food and heritage that we need for a firm foundation to move forward in the future.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

In 2014 $22 million USD revenue was generated in the preschool edugame content market with projections of $94 million. In comparison to primary education is projected at $500 million in 2019 data published at the Serious Play Conference. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, nearly 7,000 children were enrolled in preschool from 2016-2017 school year in the District of Columbia. Compared to the US average 53% of 3- and 4-year-olds were not in school, DC (20%) performed better from 203-15 due to pre-K for all legislation. The most under resource communities and children are in Ward 5, 7 and 8, particularly the East of the River community. Where's WANDA? has market potential for a scalable solution to meet the pre-k through primary school needs for parent networks, schools and child care groups for multimedia cultural relevant child nutrition education resource for early learners. Available on computers, tablets, and smartphones, Where's WANDA would be in use by children at home, classrooms, WIC clinics, and public libraries. Barriers to scale include financial resources and technical build out. WANDA U provides educators an online platform rich a rich supplemental curriculum resource and tools. A revenue mix will include B2B/B2C annual subscription model with licensure, certification fees, institutional and individual donor funding.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

Launched in March 2016, WANDA has nearly 600 Twitter followers, nearly 2000 Facebook fans, 8,000+ newsletter subscribers; international published news articles about WANDA such as Forbes and Voice of America; organized high level meetings at the World Bank 2017 Spring Meetings; received private and public donor funding; received honor/recognition from the African diasporan community; invited to speak at teaching hospitals, health departments, health professional groups, universities and nonprofit organizations in DC, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, California, Virginia, Sweden, Oklahoma and Nigeria; and held "Where's WANDA?" workshops to over 400 children, educators and parents in our launch in Nigeria in May 2016. In Spring 2016 WANDA raised 92% of its goal in a 60-day crowdfunding campaign for the Wheres WANDA book project which had a soft launch at the US Library of Congress in September 2016 and official launch at the Anacostia Arts Center in SE Washington, DC. Through online direct-to-consumer, bulk purchasing, and book store sales, we have sold nearly 1,000 Where's WANDA? books since its March 2017 released. In summer 2017 we piloted a one-day Little WANDA Garden Party and a WANDA train-the-trainer workshops with DC-based school garden educators in partnership with a local NGO. We have conducted grassroots outreach at book, children, vegan, parent groups, and health festivals and conducted an online survey and in-depth interviews. We received responses from parents and school administrators: "We need more books like this and a program like this in our community and school." "Our children need characters that can relate too." "We need to teach our boys about gender empowerment." "I want to show my child diverse cultures." For feasibility testing, we will pilot a multi-phase approach to the "Where's WANDA?" multimedia toolkits to train 25+ Big WANDAs reaching over 500+ early learners in DC and Abuja, Nigeria over a 24 month period. Currently we are developing on the prototypes of the puppet, cartoon, content, and educational games. We have received requests from Malawi, Georgia, New Jersey, Ghana and Nigeria to implement once ready to go. To achieve success, we continue to build partnerships in metro Washington, DC and in Abuja, Nigeria with public charter, public schools and private schools along with the nutrition professional community; children's health care system with child health advocacy staff and pediatricians; government/policy makers; local and international media network to provide technical assistance, community engagement, and in-sessions to recruit into the program. Team WANDA has 10 full- and part-time interns, volunteers, consultants and staff from bachelor's to doctoral degrees in their fields, mostly women of African and Caribbean immigrant communities. We plan to onboard additional support as we scale leveraging our established networks within nutrition and education fields.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

As a girl growing up in Oklahoma, I wondered why my family members were dying from lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. I thought medicine was my solution. Yet my life's journey led me to finding the answer was within our food, land, and heritage. I am a former Future Farmers of America card-carrying member with roots in agriculture and nutrition which were planted early as a fourth-generation Oklahoman. In high school I was required to study agriculture and later studied nutrition at Oklahoma State University and health communication at Tufts University School of Medicine. I am a former PBS Boston intern I saw the need to create a character to mobilize kids to champion nutrition and agriculture. But as a mom and nutritionist of NativSol Kitchen, I realized we need an army equipped for this food fight after facing blockades in my kids' school and community. Three key moments resonated with me: 1) While teaching school gardening at Harriet Tubman ES, local youth ridiculed my 3rd graders by calling them 'slaves.' 2) A student asked if I visited Africa since I was teaching African nutrition sparking my travel to Africa. 3) Though healthy school lunch legislation passed in D.C., teachers create their own classroom policies like providing junk food as student rewards. So to no surprise in 2014 while in pre-Kindergarten, my 4-year old Ruby had her first cavity. I spoke with the principal, teacher and tried to join the school’s PTA which never held meetings. Her teacher told me to bring healthy snacks for her and she wasn’t changing her policy. That’s why I created WANDA - a movement of a million women and girls to become the food sheroes in our communities on the frontline of this food fight by 2030. Inspired by my daughter, I created Little WANDA, first girl character to engage girls to inspire healthy eaters, readers and leaders. Based on my journey as a National Geographic's Traveler of the year in finding my food roots in Africa, I created character to engage girls to become global citizens and food sheroes. a pipeline and platform for a new generation of women and girls to transform their lives and communities through food and nutrition. In 2016 I was appointed by Mayor Bowser to serve on the first-ever DC Food Policy Council to build a stronger and healthier local food economy. Prior to that I spent 10 years of creating and coordinating initiatives to improve community health and economic development at the federal and local levels. I served at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters, U.S. Department of Commerce on minority business development and DC Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives and at the University of the District of Columbia’s Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health as an Extension Agent developing and implementing preschool, community and family nutrition programs and training paraprofessionals. Also I serve on the NAACP DC executive board.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

We have attracted a team of volunteers, advisors, and board members composed of dietitians, nutrition educators, physicians, school administrators, agricultural researchers, pediatricians, linguistic specialists, enterprise technology, parents and children representing the community we wish to serve. We have attracted partnerships with donors, media networks, key government agencies, nutrition associations, school social worker associations, public schools, and public charter schools in the intended geographical areas.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

Frederick Douglass famously said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” His prescient words need to be taken seriously — and acted upon — in 2017; therefore we seek dynamic innovators with expertise in any of the key following areas to move WANDA to the next level: early child education, youth development, business development, curriculum development, educational technology, communicators, game coding, simulation learning, front end website development, mobile application development, strategic thinkers, pitch prep perfecters, market analyis, EdTech, local government, donor development, human services, publicity, ad campaigns, multimedia producers, animators, USAID, 4-H, Girl Scouts, and contacts with Head Start and related professional networks and connectors.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

In reaching our greatest impact and goal attainment, WANDA would value the mentoring support in the following key areas: capacity building, financial management, HR systems, game design and development; product development; mobile application; user experience; data science; human centered design thinking; and business and partnership development. We have invested resources in the above mentioned items; however mentorship is missing component to achieve ROI.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Featured in Forbes and Voice of America, WANDA was selected as the 2016 Champion for Children's Wellbeing by ASHOKA and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. VIDEO: | VIDEO: | ARTICLE: | WEB: | FB: | TWITTER: | IG: | LINKEDIN: | BIO: tambraraye.

[Optional] Video: You are invited to submit a 30-60 second video that introduces you and/or your team and your idea.


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Beautiful concept I love the empowering idea of "all we need is already within us"

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