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For information about the PlantPure Communities Staff, click here!

Current and Past Interns

Vanessa Antonelli

Moving Medicine Forward Dietetic Intern

My name is Vanessa Antonelli and I am a 25 year old American-Cuban. I graduated from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville with my Bachelors in Nutrition and Dietetics and my Masters in Professional Studies of Nutrition and Dietetics.

My desire for knowledge in the nutrition world all started at the early age of 16, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3b colon cancer. I wanted to understand how she became sick. I researched the power of food and how some food can support a healthy body and how it can also increase the risks of diseases.

Further on in life, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and a possibility of Endometriosis. I have been doing research on nutrition and supplements which may be the answer in supporting the reduction in symptoms (and maybe even eliminating them). 

Some hobbies I enjoy include: cooking delicious recipes, researching women’s health, weight lifting with my husband at the gym, cuddling my Corgi, playing video games, and spending time with my family and friends.

Juan Salcedo

Moving Medicine Forward Dietetic Intern

My name is Juan Salcedo and I am a 25-year-old dietetic intern that is very passionate about the field of dietetics, especially when it comes to the gastrointestinal tract and how nutrition can play an important role. I am interested in research regarding the gut microbiome, bacterial diversity, and how nutrition can play a role as an effective strategy to improve GI-related health outcomes.

I graduated from the University of North Florida (UNF) with my Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2019 and my Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences in 2021 with a thesis on the role and perceptions/motives of the volunteer when it comes to helping in the community setting (specifically the Meals on Wheels program of UNF). I also enjoy lifting weights, playing volleyball, and listening to music. I am very interested in pursuing further knowledge in the field of plant-based nutrition.

Tabitha Kix

Development Intern

I am excited to begin my tenure as a PlantPure Communities development intern. My plant-based journey started in 2016 when doctors were unable to diagnose what was causing my health to decline. I began to make lifestyle changes at home between doctor appointments, including swapping out animal products for more plant-rich items. My changes were gradual and included a lot of education about food preparation and ways of eating that are different from the dominant American culture. Once I prioritized freshness, color, and diversity when preparing meals, I started to appreciate the full sensory experience that plant-based eating can provide. I became more connected with nature by eating more seasonally and locally. My energy level and mood improved drastically. I also improved my cholesterol and glucose levels and returned them to a healthy range.

I am inspired when I hear others’ stories of improving their lives with a plant-based diet and look forward to supporting PPC as they empower communities on their journey of self-improvement.

Ravyn Clemons

Moving Medicine Forward Dietetic Intern

I am so grateful for the opportunity to intern with PlantPure Communities. I have developed a better insight on plant based diets. There is so much a plant based diet can do for your body and I am just excited to be able to help!

I would love to see the shift in healthcare continue to move towards more preventive measures, rather than treatment. I wish doctors knew that the collaboration between doctors and dietitians has the ability to provide the landscape for making the best improvements to one’s diet and lifestyle for optimal health.

Carrie Fitch

Development Intern

It is truly a privilege to be supporting the important work of PlantPure Communities (PPC). I have a passion for nutrition and plant-based eating, and I appreciate the thoughtful approach PPC takes as it spreads the message of the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet on human health, animal welfare, and the environment.

I started my whole food, plant-based journey in 2005 after reading Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live. I immediately tried out the diet plan he recommended and was won over by the abundance of energy I felt as a result. Since then, I have gone through several phases on my journey: nutritarian, vegan, flexitarian, and plant-based. After 16 years on this path, I find it easy now to maintain a plant-based diet, even while traveling or living away from home, but it didn’t happen overnight. Throughout my journey, I’ve had very little social support or people in my life who understand and champion this way of eating. Many people who switch to this way of eating are motivated by a significant health issue, and their fear of pain or death keeps them firmly on the path. Thankfully, that has never been the case for me, but I’ve struggled to stay 100% plant-based because my motivation is purely feeling good and taking good care of my body. Thus, I know all too well how difficult it can be to eat 100% plant-based while living in the standard American environment that is unsupportive and filled with unhealthy foods.

I think we all need a network, a community of people, to support us in our vision to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, and the PlantPure Pods program creates those networks in communities around the world. Which is why I’m so excited to be supporting PPC and their programming that introduces people to this way of eating and supports them as they transition to a healthier lifestyle. I believe PPC’s multi-pronged, bottom-up approach is central to transforming societies the world over to a plant-based diet and I look forward to a future where healthy whole-food plant-based meals are ubiquitous.

Cricket Pedersen

Community Engagement Intern

I’m Cricket Pedersen, and I am excited to be a Community Engagement Intern with PlantPure Communities, because I want to share my story with others. After over a decade of being a vegetarian, I started eating a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) in January of 2021. Within 6 weeks, I no longer had diabetes, going from an A1C of 7.2 to 4.8. I believe if more people knew how they could radically change their health with not a lot of effort–and if they knew how good the food really tastes!–people would make the same decision I did, to eat a WFPB diet.

I’m a high school librarian, and I love to read young adult fiction and poetry. I have two grown children with my husband of 32 years. I play the clarinet in a community orchestra, and I am learning Spanish. Weekends find me teaching personal finance classes to military service members, catching up on my telenovelas, and cheering on Arsenal Football Club. I am fascinated by economics and blockchain technology. I am completely Team Oxford Comma.

Esther Aida Suarez

Community Support Intern

I am Esther and I feel blessed to be serving Plant Pure Communities (PPC) as a volunteer community engagement intern. My experience in the whole food, plant-based world has long been aligned to the work of PPC, since its inception. PPC’s mission to “build stronger, healthier and more sustainable communities…by helping to educate people about evidence based nutrition that shows how optimal health can be achieved through a whole food plant-based diet” is also my life mission! As the seeds of PlantPure Communities continue to sprout and bloom across the globe, I’m honored to be one of PPC’s newest stewards in helping these communities flourish. May we all be nourished by Nature’s abundant goodness of plant-rich food.

Professionally, I have taught WFPB workshops in Berkeley, CA, USA, when I was a health instructor in the library adult literacy program. I also presented the workshops at adult school, community college, senior centers, and to the general public. I have earned certificates in WFPB nutrition from T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. These gave me additional tools for sharing this valuable information. Also, having a Masters in Human Development, with emphasis on Adult Education, supports me in delivering this information in ways that are most digestible to the general public. I like teaching students that they can both survive and really thrive by transitioning to a WFPB diet.

Personally, I began this journey being raised on a plant-rich Caribbean diet. That changed when my mother took a job at McDonalds! Working long hours and lacking energy to cook at home, she fed us fast food from work. Naturally, our health suffered. Thankfully, mom’s instinct to find a way to heal herself and her children was very strong and led to “I quit!” She then became a vegetarian and eventual vegan and so did I. Straying from that lifestyle during marriage led to anemia in my mid 30’s. My mother, my “rock” again helped me get back to Nature’s garden and great health. I’ve been vegan for 20 years now and will continue to be forever more.