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By December 17, 2019October 11th, 2022No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2019

For information, contact: Jody Kass, PPC Executive Director: 704-412-4506 x101


Second round of scholarships for 2019


The nonprofit PlantPure Communities (PPC) today announced that ten leaders of Pods (independent local groups connected to the PPC Pod Network) are the newest recipients of scholarships for the renowned Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program offered through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (CNS) and eCornell. These scholarships are being made available via a collaboration between PPC and CNS. The scholarships are aimed at building the capacity of community leaders carrying out impactful activities in their neighborhoods via the PPC Pod Network. 

PPC is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that works to build stronger, healthier, more sustainable communities through a wide range of research, policy, and program activities and by working with local nonprofits, governments, businesses, and other health and community-based organizations. The PPC Pod Network emerged out of the 2015 PlantPure Nation film with the goal of creating and supporting a grassroots movement by empowering a network of independent local groups (Pods) and people to promote the benefits of a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. Pods are comprised of like-minded people, working together to share the life-saving nutrition research that shows that a whole-food, plant-based diet is optimal for humans. To date, there are over 240,000 people and hundreds of Pods involved in the PPC Pod Network (in 22 countries). Participation is free, and offers support and networking opportunities to everyone interested in learning, advocating, and practicing a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.  

Ten exemplary leaders were chosen to receive this scholarship due to the commendable work they are doing and the impactful community goals they are planning for 2020. “We are so thankful to CNS for their partnership and for allowing us to offer this exceptional educational resource to our on-the-ground Pod leaders who are bringing the science of plant-based nutrition to their communities,” said Jody Kass, PPC Executive Director. “CNS is pleased to support PPC’s efforts to strengthen the Pod Network by offering these educational scholarships to active community leaders helping to share the science-based nutrition and health message. There is so much confusing information out there. It is crucial that this information reaches everyone, and especially those who live in food deserts, low-income, and other underserved neighborhoods where nutrition-related chronic diseases are rampant,” said Jenny Miller, CNS Executive Director.

The scholarship recipients represent a diverse group of local leaders who will be bringing evidence-based nutrition education back to their communities. This is the first scholarship recipient from Bolivia; the fourth from Canada (Ontario) and the rest are from the United States (Nebraska, Virginia, Texas, Colorado, Missouri). One of the award winners is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and another is also fluent in Spanish. Meet our scholarship recipients: 

Kara Bell

Kara is the Group Leader for the Show Me Plants Pod, located in Washington, Missouri. Her Pod, which meets monthly, is focused on education; they’ve had guest speakers, watched films, and given presentations about health topics. In addition, Show Me Plants is managing a community garden. In Kara’s words, “Since transforming my life with a whole food, plant-based lifestyle beginning in May 2018, I have had a remarkable recovery of my health. I’ve lost over 100 pounds, reversed type 2 Diabetes, eliminated hypertension, rid myself of debilitating fatigue, social anxiety, depression, and a host of other maladies, and have also been able to discontinue multiple prescription medications. My life has done a complete 180; I feel fantastic and am truly living a bold and vibrant life for the first time as an adult! Soon after beginning to feel the positive effects of the WFPB lifestyle, I realized that this information was too important not to share with others. It became my mission to tell everyone I met what had made the difference for me so they too might experience the healing power of food. As a former educator and avid reader, I am a lifelong learner and have immersed myself in the scientific literature related to this lifestyle. Completing the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program has been a goal of mine since I first learned about it and I am eager to begin the course. Taking a deeper dive into the science and arming myself with more evidence will help me educate others about this truly transformational and life-saving lifestyle, which is my mission. I write about my journey and have been asked to share my story with others as a speaker, which I am happy to do if it helps one other person as I have been helped. This scholarship is a blessing and will allow me to pay it forward. I am grateful for the opportunity to share with others what I have been so fortunate to have learned and implemented into my life. Knowledge is power and that knowledge has forever changed my life.”

Dr. Rizwan Bukhari 

Dr. Bukhari is the Co-Group Leader for the Plant-Based DFW Pod, located in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Bukhari is a vascular surgeon who hopes to one day give talks at medical schools to students who are interested in plant-based nutrition. Dr. Bukhari and co-leader Maya Acosta host a few Pod events each month, including a Walk with a Doc event and a potluck/documentary screening/lecture. Their last documentary screening attracted about 100 people and their Pod currently has over 400 Members. In addition, Plant-Based DFW is actively participating in the PPC Restaurant Campaign. Upon receiving the scholarship Dr. Bukhari stated, “I want to be able to say that I have the eCornell certification. I would like the support of PlantPure Communities and the knowledge from eCornell to show that I have invested in my own education. As many know, doctors receive very little training about nutrition. I have had to learn on my own. I believe the eCornell course is one of the best programs offered on the topic.”

Bruce Cowdrick

Bruce is the Group Leader for the Eat Healthy Virginia Pod, located in Goodview, Virginia. As a new Group Leader, Bruce started off strong with five community events in the first two months. These events included potlucks, viewing of “The Game Changers” film, a seminar about how to reverse diseases with a WFPB diet, and a WFPB luncheon. Eat Healthy Virginia has continued the strong start with several events each month with up to 60 people in attendance. In Bruce’s words, “My church, my family, my community, my county ALL seem content to continue on in the blissful oblivion that can be found in a plate of bacon and eggs and a pill to keep it from killing them before they even leave the table. I need the expertise and scientific authority that comes with the esteemed work of scholars such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell to nudge the community I love into considering important changes.”

Laurie Foral

Laurie is the Group Leader for the Plant Powered Omaha Pod, located in Omaha, Nebraska. Laurie’s first Pod meeting was in April 2019 and already has over 230 Pod Members. Monthly Pod meetings have had up to 45 people in attendance. Plant Powered Omaha is participating in the PPC Restaurant Campaign. So far they have reached out to 28 restaurants in their community. Several of these restaurants are looking to take the next step and receive the PPC Restaurant Campaign certificate. Laurie stated, “I applied for the scholarship because the plant-based movement is growing rapidly here in Omaha. Eating WFPB has changed my life in so many ways and being a Pod leader is an awesome responsibility, so I wanted the best education possible. I know that is what I will receive through eCornell. I am excited to share what I learn through our monthly meetings, community presentations, and educating restaurant owners via the restaurant campaign. I see so many opportunities in our future! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this fabulous opportunity.”

Natalia Maldonado

Natalia is the Group Leader for the Almendra Pod, located in La Paz, Bolivia. With the nearby Amazon Rainforest burning, many Bolivians have an increased interest in reducing their meat consumption and looking towards a plant-based diet. Natalia is providing resources and support for her community through Pod events. After starting the Pod in April 2019, Natalia hosted several events, such as a cooking class with a plant-based chef, a documentary viewing, and an educational class about whole foods. Natalia stated, “As a healthcare practitioner I think prevention is the key to avoiding chronic diseases. Educating and leading by example in our community is a great way to do so. In a world where we are overwhelmed with unhealthy junk food, ignoring the effects could have a negative impact on our health. I want to teach my community about the power of plants. I will show that having a whole food, plant-based diet can improve the quality of life and also that it is affordable, cheaper, super delicious, easy, and is for everyone. My plan is to keep expanding the message in virtual platforms, in courses, at the Pod potlucks, and in my private consultation. I also want to engage with more restaurants to make them conscious about this and encourage them to avoid oil and refined sugars. This is going to be a big challenge, but I can’t wait to do it. I’m super grateful for the opportunity.”

Roman Moretti

Roman is the Group Leader for the Kingston Veg Network Pod, located in Kingston Ontario, Canada. In March 2018 this Pod started with four Pod Members and has grown to over 230 Members! Roman hosts monthly potlucks with education and discussion. In addition, the Kingston Veg Network Pod has already helped one restaurant receive the PPC Restaurant Campaign certificate. Main Street Market Urban Farm proudly displays their certificate for everyone to see. Roman stated, “I applied for the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program because I would like to help my PlantPure Communities Pod with information and resources at our monthly discussions. This certificate is recognized and adds credibility to our Pod. I will share this information with the Pod. I will synthesize the modules into 30 minute presentations. Then, we will have a discussion afterwards. This will help build the whole food, plant-based movement by standardizing the information that members will receive and share.”

Dr. Jennifer Rathbun

Dr. Rathbun is the Group Leader for the Vail Valley Plant Based Living Pod, located in Vail, Colorado. She hosts monthly Pod meetings for her 160+ Pod Members. Dr. Rathbun has a strong desire to grow her Pod and have a large reach in her community. She has begun to reach out to restaurants to encourage them to add more plant-based and oil free options and will expect more restaurants to participate in the PPC Restaurant Campaign in 2020. Dr. Rathbun stated, “I applied for the Plant Based Nutrition Certificate scholarship because I have recently taken over leadership of Vail Valley Plant Based Living and I want to see it grow. I am a Chiropractor in a popular ski resort community where a lot of athletes care about what they eat. I want to help my community understand how a whole food, plant-based diet can help them live better and perform better. The knowledge I gain from these courses will equip me to reach out to a wider spectrum of people, with confidence, and communicate more clearly about how to make the switch to a plant-based diet.”

Jim Runnels

Jim is the Group Leader for the Eat Healthy – Texoma Pod, located in Pottsboro, Texas. In addition to hosting monthly potluck dinners for their Pod meetings, Jim and his Pod Members are planning to work with PlantPure Communities to undertake two Oasis Jumpstart Pilots in Texas. It is their goal to bring whole food, plant-based meals, science-based nutrition education, and healthy lifestyle practices to underserved neighborhoods in their county. Other projects they have completed include a partnership with Meals on Wheels of Texoma, the Greater Texoma Health Clinic, and Katherine Lawrence (Food Saved Me). Eat Healthy – Texoma has over 90 Pod Members! Upon receiving the scholarship Jim stated, “As the Pod leader of Eat Healthy – Texoma, I will make nutrition education and cooking classes the cornerstone for our outreach program. The goal will be to increase the number of people interested in learning about a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. I expect the information taken from the course to be the foundation on which the nutrition education classes are formed. Theses classes will be in collaboration with the Texoma Meals on Wheels program and the Greater Texoma Health Clinic.”

Vicki Spradling

Vicki is the Group Leader for the Get Healthy Seguin Guadalupe County Pod, located in Seguin, Texas. In January 2017, Vicki started her Pod and invited her Pod Members to her home for a home cooked plant-based meal. Three years later, Vicki is still hosting Pod meetings and going strong. Get Healthy Seguin Guadalupe County now meets at a church and Pod Members regularly come to enjoy a plant-based potluck and an educational presentation. Vicki stated, “I applied for the scholarship because this lifestyle has meant so much to me and my husband, it literally has changed our lives. I wasn’t at all healthy and was headed for so many chronic illnesses. Reading Dr. Campbell’s book changed my life. Ever since reading The China Study I have worked tirelessly trying to help my family and friends learn the truth. For myself, I want to learn as much as possible so that I can share with others the facts. I feel that taking this course will help me to help others even more. I feel so strongly that this is a grassroots movement that must come from the ground up. I hope that having the certificate will help to open more hearts and ears to the truth of this movement, giving me some validity in that I have taken such a prestigious course.”

Becki Westover

Becki is the Group Leader for the Plant-Based Burlington-Hamilton Pod, located in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. After starting her Pod in May 2019, Becki has grown the Pod to over 80 Pod Members, hosting a Pod Meeting every month. The Plant-Based Burlington-Hamilton Pod is creating relationships with several groups in their community for outreach. Some of these activities include hosting potlucks on campus at the local University, starting a Walk with a Doc event, offering cooking demos at one hospital for their employees and at another hospital for their patients, and starting a community garden. Becki stated, “I applied for this scholarship because I felt that as a leader in this community, I needed to have a deeper understanding of the best available evidence in order to guide others safely and effectively on their plant-based journey. With new knowledge gained from this course, I will be more confident in answering Pod Members questions and disseminating the information through interactive and more creative Pod events. I also plan to integrate this information into my clinical practice as an Orthotist where appropriate.”


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